Yes, I tried the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau. Yes, I liked it. I like it every year. I wouldn’t miss trying it. It’s festive; it’s fun; it’s an event.
Is it a good wine? Is it really wine? Is it worth all the fuss? Depends. I’m not sure it’s really wine; yet, having said that, I’ve encountered a lot of wines with fewer qualifications. “Good,” of course, is subjective. If you like it, enjoy it, it’s good. If you like complexity, seriousness in wine, then you may not appreciate the New Beaujolais.
I have sampled it on the midnight of the third Thursday of November in the wineries where it is produced and witnessed the massive deployment of trucks and helicopters and limousines heading out of the region for airports and Frankfurt and Paris before the laws relaxed enough to allow for some shipping to staging warehouses before the authorized release date. I have sampled it in some of the most highly-rated restaurants in France and at a variety of parties with revelers trying to show off the most imaginative ways to present it and always with the same result: I was glad I did it.
A wine to lay down? Never. A wine to compare with others? Not at all. Accept it for what it is — a wine released for fun, for frivolous enjoyment, and, above all, for bringing instant cash to an often overlooked wine region. Now into a fortnight after release, I have had quite enough New Beaujolais fun for this year and will return to other bottlings till next year.
You’re going to thank me for this! I’ve discovered the perfect gift for wine lovers of all levels–and it won’t cost an arm and a leg. This is it: “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert,” by Richard Betts.
Richard Betts is regarded as one of the best sommeliers in America, yet his style is far from stuffy. He is quite the expert–probably not as great an expert as our own Ole Olsen–but enough that he founded 2 wine companies: Betts & Scholl and Scarpetta, and is a featured contributor to The New York Times, Wine Spectator, Food & Wine and many other publications. His recent projects are the creations of “My Essential Red” & “My Essential Rose” wines, but my favorite is his new wine: “St. Glinglin” which he claims is French for “When Pigs Fly.” I have my doubts about the translation, but this much is true: Betts loves to have fun with wines. He is well known for his statement that: “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.”
So, back to the book. Readers of my earlier blogs may remember my dilemma trying to comprehend wine descriptors. While this book may lack the cat pee and smoky bacon aromas, what it DOES contain is very helpful. Frankly, I’m relieved by the somewhat limited range!
The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and retails for $19.99. I’ve looked for it locally with no success, so ended up ordering it from Amazon for $12.72. OK, so have I made your holiday shopping easier??? Happy Holidays!
As I write from the Arizona border with Mexico where Thanksgiving 2013 finds me, I can’t help recalling past Thanksgivings out of the ordinary. In the early 1950s, for example, I invited some French friends for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. I had ordered a turkey through the U.S. Air Force Officers’ Mess. My wife had made the dressing, the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes, the pecan and quince pies, but when I drove to the Air Base at Toul-Rosieres, the club manager said the turkeys had not come in, so he had a ham ready for us. It had come from a local farmer, the same one my French friends bought hams from. The New Beaujolais carried us through.
A couple of years earlier, we prepared a Thanksgiving dinner in Izmir, Turkey. The U.S. Air Force Chief Engineer cautioned us that city gas pressures were quite low and assigned us Americans lighting times for our ovens so that we would not all be roasting at the same time. The state-owned Kavaklideri Pinot Noir covered our cooking.
In 1993 on Thanksgiving we found ourselves at the Surgeon’s table on the Queen Elizabeth II, and, as third in command he had authority to spare us turkey in favor of a Beef Wellington washed down with 1982 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou.
A couple of years ago, Midwestern storms delayed our annual trek to family in New Mexico, so we found ouselves on the Illinois side of the river from St. Louis at the end of Thanksgiving Day. Only Appleby’s was open — staffed by volunteers. Roast turkey was the only dish on the menu but we were allowed our own bottle of Nuits-St.-Georges.
For a time, my late brother and I alternated Thanksgiving dinners in our Indianapolis and Jackson County homes, and Bill Oliver’s Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah covered my wife’s French style turkey in the finest traditional meal I’ve yet enjoyed on that holiday.
Beaujolais was the umbrella wine for a few of those holiday turkeys in the home of one of our Indiana Wine Fair judges, but when Monsieur Rubio, our neighbor in the Roussillon, hosted us on this unique American holiday with his entire extended family, the food was paella loaded with shell fish and washed down with fresh, young Roussillanaise Blanc.
Gustave Rinn, from his phone in his one-star Michelin restaurant, once asked us if I could get him an American Butterball turkey. I did, and it was the first frozen turkey he had ever seen. His American, German, and French invited guests couldn’t believe that it was a Butterball — or that the wine was an Alsace Pinot Noir.
The most meaningful Thanksgivings, however, occurred during those troubled Viet Nam War days when at the Army European Headquarters in Heidelberg, we would gather with senior commanders, hold hands, and pray for the soldiers and their families. After all, it was the soldiers who made Thanksgivings possible for the rest of us.
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