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Beaujolais: White Wine in Red Clothing
You’re unlikely to find, say, a 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau on the wine list here—or anywhere. Read on to learn why.
For years, the third Thursday in November filled wine shops everywhere with a particular exclamation: “Les Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” The official slogan has changed, but the sentiment remains. The end of harvest season marks the arrival of the youngest of an already-young style of wine, aged only seven to nine weeks and almost irreverent in its bright, berry-like flavor. The rest of the year, lovers of sweet wine can enjoy a vintage that’s as old as nine months. Some call Beaujolais “the only white wine that happens to be red,” and like a white wine, it should be served slightly chilled, although it’s less welcome at black-tie water-balloon fights.
The Grape That Grows Up Fast
It’s not just the grape, the sweet Gamay, that makes a Beaujolais so frisky. The secret is carbonic maceration. Juice first ferments inside the hand-picked, unpressed grape itself, aging quickly through interacting with the grape skin. After fermentation, the new wine is left to its own devices in tanks or in small oaken barrels, just long enough to enrich the Beaujolais’ robust fruitiness with floral and spice flavors.