Celebrate Nouveau Day with a glass of Beaujolais wine
John Wilson: Producers of this week’s wines changed the face of Beaujolais for the better
Beaujolais Nouveau was never meant to be the monster it became. All over Europe at this time of year, farmers celebrate the harvest; crops and fruits of all kinds are gathered in, pigs slaughtered and made into the finest charcuterie. And, of course, a new vintage of wine is bubbling away in the cellar.
What better way to mark the occasion than drinking some of the new vintage? It helps that most freshly fermented or half-fermented wines taste delicious, with some residual sugar, a light fizz, and gorgeous sweet ripe fruit.
Beaujolais was traditionally made by a method known as traditionelle. Dump a pile of grapes into a vat, and leave them alone for a day or two, and the bunches at the bottom of the pile will split and the juice will begin fermenting. This releases carbon dioxide, causing other whole bunches to ferment internally. It is probably the oldest, most basic method of making wine, or letting the wine make itself.
Beaujolais Noveau is or was a modern commercial take on this, with a process known as carbonic maceration, whereby whole bunches of grapes are placed in a sealed vat with carbon dioxide. The grapes initially ferment internally before being pressed and completing the process normally.
Big commerce got hold of Bojo, industrialised the process and churned out massive quantities of a cheap, confected, bubblegum-flavoured wine. It put many of us off the name Beaujolais and plunged the region into a decade-long depression, from which it has now, thankfully, emerged.
The first two wines I feature this week represent bright and bubbly Beaujolais, the second two a more profound kind of wine. They come from producers who not only changed the face of Beaujolais for the better but also introduced the world to low-intervention wine and brought about a sea-change in winemaking.
This is natural wine at its best, with vibrant, ripe fruits, real depth and complexity. You might argue they are expensive for a Beaujolais; I would counter that they are better value than most wines in that price bracket. You could also try Château des Jacques Moulin à-Vent (€38, independents) or the wines of Jean-Paul Brun (winesdirect.ie).
Dave Gallagher in Green Man Wines, Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, Loose Cannon and First Draft, and Beverley Matthews of l’Attitude in Cork (relocated at the Apple Market for the occasion), are all big fans of Beaujolais and low-intervention wine. They have always partied on the third Thursday of November. Ever optimists, they are moving their Nouveau parties to early December.
However, Thursday 19th is the official Nouveau Day, and in these difficult times, we should celebrate the bounty that nature brings us each year with a glass of Beaujolais, even if only with family. Remember too that Beaujolais is one of the most food-friendly wines of all.
Beaujolais Villages 2018, Domaine de la Madone
Classic Beaujolais; light, juicy, supple raspberry and redcurrant fruits, and a tannin-free finish. Light enough to drink by itself or with nibbles before dinner, or with chicken dishes.
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Cass & Co, Dungarvan, cassansdco.ie.
Raisins Gaulois 2019, Vin de France, Lapierre
A quaffing wine full of joyous, light, juicy, soft, ripe fruits – almost a Nouveau of the very best kind, and a great way to celebrate the harvest. Drink solo or with all kinds of cold meats and firm cheeses.
Stockists: Cass & Co., Dungarvan, Cassansdco.ie; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, Firstdraftcoffeandwine.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Eleven Deli, Greystones, Elevendeli.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; Nectar Wines D18, Nectarwines.com
Morgon 2019, Lapierre
A compelling wine rich in structured lively ripe dark cherry fruits, set off by a fine mineral acidity; slightly earthy with grippy tannins and a lingering finish. Try this with a plain roast chicken or pork in a mushroom sauce.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Eleven Deli, Greystones, Elevendeli.ie; Nectar Wines, D14; Nectarwines.com.
Morgon Foillard – Morgon “Cuvee Corcelette” 2016, Jean Foillard
Very expressive pure fresh velvety lush dark fruits, a solid mineral backbone, and a lovely long sweet finish. Great wine. The weight and depth of this wine would suggest a roast of pork.
Stockists: Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie.