Every year, Hastings' Alexis Bailly Vineyards takes some of its Marechal Foch grapes and prepares them, beaujolais-style, into its "Nouveau" wine to celebrate the harvest. This year's "Nouveau 2009" -- bottled just last week -- will be available at the vineyard this weekend only during its annual Open House event.
Like beaujolais -- a French wine made with the Gamay grape -- Alexis Bailly's Nouveau is fermented in a yeast-free process called "carbonic maceration. Whereas with most wines the grapes are crushed after being picked, with this type of speeded up process, they are sealed in an airtight container for just up to a couple of weeks max before being bottled up.
"The whole purpose to be very light, very fruity, very simple. It's not complex," says Winemaker Nan Bailly. "Everyting about the wine is primary. It is very close to the grape." The wine has no tannins, very low acidity, and really none of the "secondary" flavors that come with aging. The "Cinderella of wines," it is meant to be drunk quickly, she says, in this batch's case, no later than New Year's Eve.
Bailly, who learned to make wine in France, was inspired by the beaujolais process -- which is strictly overseen by the French government -- to try her hand at it herself, Minnesota-style. She seals the Foch grapes just six or seven days before bottling.
The first time she made wine this way, she says, when she unsealed the container and saw that the grapes looked the same, she thought she'd failed. Just a couple bites told her otherwise though, and the rest is history. She says she now looks forward to eating the wine-y grapes as much as drinking the resulting wine.
Bottles of "Nouveau 2009" will be on sale this weekend for $12.99.
Alexis Bailly Vineyard Annual Open House Sat., 11/7 and Sun., 11/8 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. $10 (includes souvenir etched wine glass).