Search & Distill: Beaujolais Nouveau’s Not Worth the Money

Buy yourself some solid French wines instead.

During my first summer as the wine buyer at DeLaurenti in Pike Place Market, I got suckered into the big Beaujolais Nouveau pre-sell. Multiple distributors wanted me to buy their version of this first-of-the-season wine, released in November. I was essentially committing to cases of it before grapes were even picked half a world away. "Why would I buy so much wine that I've never tasted?" I thought. But I was young, and figured no matter how I felt about it, I had to have the wine for holiday customers—same as cranberry sauce.Boy, was I wrong.Beaujolais Nouveau, or "new wine," comes from the Beaujolais region in southeastern France. Most wine sits in bottle for months before release, but in France, to celebrate the harvest, winemakers set aside some of their grapes to make wine immediately destined for the table. Most pour from a spigot and get passed around a village.Beaujolais has become the default region for wines like this that make it into a bottle and right onto store shelves. Because wines made for sale are pushed through production lickety-split, the bigger brands tend to taste very similar. The wine is rarely better than sub-average—fruity, sometimes spritzy, and more often than not possessing a stench I can only equate to circus peanuts.Released in America the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais Nouveau has inspired companies in this country to tie its sale to Thanksgiving. The wine makes it from France to QFC in about a month (hello, carbon footprint!), and you're conditioned to buy it within a week. The bitter pill for retailers comes after Thanksgiving, when you can barely give the stuff away. I'll admit it didn't really matter as much to me when these silly wines cost $7–$8, but back in 2006 I remember complaining when the Nouveau cracked $10—and last year's crop hovered near $16. What's more, the U.S. dollar's position against the Euro currently sucks, and wineries rush this wine to market, both big factors in the astronomical price of this once-cheap novelty. For $16, you can get a très elegant bottle of French wine or make gallons of sangria. So why wouldn't you? As far as I know, the Pilgrims and Indians didn't serve paté at Thanksgiving.At $16, Beaujolais Nouveau isn't fun anymore. It's all marketing. Put $10 and "Perfect for Thanksgiving" on a stack of any wine and it'll sell.Besides, I've always hated the idea of specific wine pairings for Turkey Day. The best beverage for Thanksgiving dinner, same as the best dessert or potatoes, is what you like best. It's a day of comfort, but it's also a very American day. If we go to the local farmers market for our yams and Brussels sprouts, and we make the effort to buy a local, sustainably raised turkey, I think we should support our local wine, beer, cider, and spirit-makers as well, and leave Beaujolais Nouveau to the French.msavarino@seattleweekly.com

 
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