The third Thursday in November is a big day in the wine world. It's the day that the year's first shipment of Beaujolais nouveau wine goes on sale. [Scratch that: It's the first day that the wine is allowed to go on sale. The French are very fussy about these things you know.] This year, that day was last Thursday, Nov. 19, and this year's crop of Gamay -- the grape used to make Beajolais nouveau -- is supposedly better than the last several years.
The nouveau is unique because it is barely aged and special because it is only available for a brief time each year -- typically just until New Year's, though this year's "season" will likely be shorter. (Solo Vino, for example, already sold out two of its four nouveaus and predicts it will be completely out by the end of the week.) It's also pretty uniformly cheap -- under $15 for all those mentioned here. Surdyk's and Solo Vino already ran out of one of this year's most prized nouveaus -- Joseph Drouhin (Surdyk's ran out in just one day). Fortunately, at least a couple other shops still have it, and some other good ones too.
Here's top nouveau picks from five local wine shops:
1. France 44 still has some of the coveted Joseph Drouhin nouveau. David Anderson, the store's vice president, says "It's light and it's charming, a fruit-forward style of wine. The lightness and the charm is what we're looking for ... The wine is really what you call a quaffer. It's not to fuss over, it's to enjoy." Anderson says he's never had a beaujolais from Drouhin that he didn't like. "They have been consistently high quality over the years and I would say that even in years that were not as good as this year or 2005 they've always been consistently good," he says.
2. The Wine Thief has just one Beaujolais nouveau this year, called Mommessin, which is selling for $13.99 a bottle. Shop Owner Paul Wentzel describes the wine as "light, fruity, [and] typical of Beaujolais nouveau."
3. Like France 44, Sorella digs the Joseph Drouhin too. "It just seems to have more depth of fruit to it," says Wine Buyer Darrin Minehan. "It's more concentrated, and tastes more like real Beaujolais." Sorella has four nouveaus in stock, including the Drouhin, and will be cracking open two of the others for tastings today and tomorrow. All of the shops nouveaus are currently on sale, starting at $7.97 a bottle.
4. Surdyk's Wine Consultant Krystin Sershon says she didn't even get a chance to try this year's Drouhin nouveau because it flew out the door so fast last week. Of the five Beaujolais nouvous the store still has, she recommends the Pascal Chatelus which is currently on sale for $12.79 a bottle. "It has been the resounding favorite here," she says. "It's got bright fresh fruitiness and little bit of acidity to it. It's perfectly Beaujolais."
5. Out of four Beaujolais nouveaus Solo Vino currently only has two left. Like Surdyk's Sershon, shop Owner Chuck Kanski digs the Pascal Chatelus but of the two nouveaus he still has in stock, recommends the Matray, which runs $12.99 a bottle. "It's just nice, light and juicy. It's what nouveau used to be like," he says."Nouveaus are getting more structured. [It] shouldn't be thought of in a serious way."