In these trying times, Beaujolais Nouveau gives us pause to celebrate!
The third Thursday of November = the official launch of Beaujolais Nouveau. For Americans, it is just before Thanksgiving and a warm up for our big family feast. A pre-celebration, if you will, and this year we welcome as many celebrations as possible, n'est-ce pas?
This much anticipated date is usually cause for a gathering. Chapters of the Alliance Francaise (AF) and the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) prepare lavish galas and posh parties to toast to this beautiful region and tradition. Times of crisis breed innovation, and our creative board of the FACC in Minnesota came up with a virtual trip to the lovely vineyards of Beaujolais and a close-up and personal tour of the caves of Georges Duboeuf. In case you missed your flight, I'd like to share some of the stories that made me want to fill my wine cave with Beaujolais wines.
Our Captain on this flight was Romain Teyteau, Export Director of Georges Duboeuf. Knowledgeable and entertaining, his love for this family business was palpable, and contagious! I instantly added a trip to this vineyard to my next France trip itinerary. While it is always a joy to taste wines in a vineyard setting, Georges also created an entire theme park dedicated to Beaujolais wines! I may need to spend a few days to discover it all...
But first, a trip down memory lane ...
Beaujolais was the first red wine I learned to love. Before studying abroad as a college student, I had only experienced sweet, white wines in the States. French reds tasted quite bitter in comparaison. But then I tasted Beaujolais and found it fruity and light - quite drinkable! I spent the rest of my time in France drinking Beaujolais. Over the years I have developed an appreciation for a wide variety of French wines, and Beaujolais had been put on the back burner. Until this celebration reminded me what a fun and festive wine it is! Perhaps you will be inspired to buy a bottle - or several - as well!
Fasten your seatbelts ...
Stunning landscapes ... quality products ... personal connections and a rich family history: Georges Duboeuf has everything we love about traditional French regional specialties!
It begins with the story of an innovative young man. I'll let the family tell you ...
The story begins over 4 centuries ago, when the Duboeuf family was producing wine in the Mâconnais region. Georges was very young when his uncle and brother passed down both their passion for wine and their secrets of production. At just 18 years old, he preferred to take care of the family business with his brother rather than pursuing his studies.
(From the George Duboeuf website)
When Georges was young, the wine from all of the neighboring growers was collected by a large tanker trunk, which blended all of the different wines into one. While this blend was good, it lacked any personal variation. Georges had the idea to bottle each vintner's wines right at their site. He got a truck and adapted it so that at each stop, the wine would be bottled allowing the unique variations to provide more interesting wines.
Young and full of energy, Georges set off with the family-grown wines strapped to his bicycle, meeting top restaurateurs like Gaston Brazier, Paul Blanc, Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, and even the Haeberlin brothers. The distinguished Beaujolais wines found their place naturally among these prestigious establishments. In response to this burgeoning success, Georges did not hesitate to start bottling wine and develop relations with other regional winemakers. This allowed him to offer wines that reflected the great diversity of the surrounding vineyards. Georges created a group of producers, “L’Ecrin Mâconnais-Beaujolais”, that represented 40+ winemakers from all appellations of the region. This was the start of a great adventure that has given a new face to the trade business, and brought the business closer to the winemakers themselves.
« Through the bottling process, we are able to bring spirit to the wine, just as we could take away its essence. » Louis ORIZET
(from the Georges DuBoeuf website)
How to enjoy your Beaujolais
There are 3 tiers of Beaujolais. They are all made from 100% Gamay grapes, but the area in which they are grown is slightly different.
The difference between the three has to do with the complexity of the wine. The smaller area of Cru Beaujolais has a more complex flavor and is aged longer.
The term "Nouveau" refers to the fact this the the Beaujolais is bottled 2 months after the grapes are harvested, giving people a fresh look at the wines that will be coming out that year. There are no tannins in Beaujolais Nouveau, so people who are not normally red wine drinkers usually like this one.
And although most people wouldn't refer to 2020 as a "good year" for many reasons, the wine this year is proving exceptional thanks to a hot, dry summer.
Export Director Romain Teyteau recommends drinking Beaujolais Nouveau for celebrations this winter (Thanksgiving, Christmas, virtual toasts ...) then drinking Beaujolais Villages during the week with dinner and saving the Cru Beaujolais wines for the weekend. The nice thing about a lighter, fruity wine is that it complements the food without overwhelming the dish. The wine makes the food taste better, and the food makes the wine taste better! Chill a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau slightly and serve with a light cheese, or whatever tempts you. If both taste better together, then it is a good pairing!
Thanks to the fact that Georges personally brought his wines to the restaurants in Lyon, he became good friends with Paul Bocuse and many of the great chefs. Personal connections. These connections were also what brought Beaujolais Nouveau to Minnesota. In 1972 Minnesota and New York were the only two states where you could buy Beaujolais Nouveau. Jack Farrell, CEO of Haskell's WIne Shop, recounts how Fritzi Haskell began searching for European wines after prohibition lifted. It was thanks to her love of French wines and the relationships that she cultivated that Minnesota was the 2nd state to import these wines that are now celebrated all over the world.
Jack Farrell has a wealth of knowledge about wines and the history of French wines in Minnesota. Usually in France for the grand celebration, he was kind enough to share his evening with us this year. If you missed the virtual gala put on by the French American Chamber of Commerce, you will have a chance to see the video soon. Grab some wine, cheese and chocolate and follow along!
Jack Farrell CEO of Haskell's discusses wine
Traci Parent of French Detours discusses cheese
Kathy Bohnen of L'More Chocolat discusses chocolate