2011 Beaujolais Nouveau Takes to the Streets

Tasting the just-released Georges Duboeuf vintage

The ritualistic arrival of beaujolais nouveau on the third Thursday of each November is all about fun and celebration of the current vintage — trying to make any more or less of it is akin to telling your 5-year-old that Santa Claus isn’t coming this year because of too many DUIs.

In the case of nouveau, Franck Duboeuf again served as our Santa this year, with his sleigh (a 1976 Caddie painted yellow like this year’s label) bringing a few cases of the 2011 to Stage 37 on Manhattan’s West Side.

“Beaujolais nouveau is 60 years old this year,” Duboeuf told an audience of writers, restaurateurs, and various hangers-on as the wine was being poured for a luncheon. “Duboeuf [his family’s company] now sells nouveau in more than 100 countries.”

He noted that there would be Duboeuf Nouveau parties in more than 100 different American cities later in the evening — which will barely put a dent in the 165,000 cases of the fruity red that Duboeuf sells annually in this country. While a few wine purists steadfastly stay home in protest each year, most of us enjoy the experience probably as much as the wine itself.

Of course, lots of producers make beaujolais nouveau, but Duboeuf has always been the one that does the most to promote it. And the 2011 Duboeuf Nouveau is properly fruity, properly balanced, and enjoyable to drink. It is an ideal first marker of what was a very good gamay vintage in eastern France.

Nouveau wines have always been about instant gratification, first officially distributed in 1961 to slake the thirst of the Parisian café society who wanted to taste fresh wine before the snow started falling. The food equivalent is licking the cake-batter spoon while waiting for the cake to bake.

Sure, other regions have jumped on the nouveau wagon, but on the third Thursday of each November, it’s only the nouveau from Beaujolais that counts.