Friday, November 18, 2011

Beaujolais et St. James Nouveau est arrive!

I tend to slam on California wineries that release their wines when they're too young to drink. I joke a lot about how California is drinking a Cabernet that they made on Wednesday, when, really, their wine needs to least a while. In Missouri, young Nortons are nice- even out of the barrel- but Norton really expresses itself after a few years in the bottle (which is why I have a whole rack of 09s that I won't touch).

But the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau ushers in two months of drinking wine that was only made a month ago, and it's intended to be imbibed while young, very young, only weeks old. In some parts of the country, the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau is cause for big parties at airport hangars, big events with lots of food and glitter. I live in a town that doesn't really celebrate Nouveau, of course, and it's lucky that I can find at least one to drink. You see, in New Orleans or in Europe, one can find a suite of Nouveau available on this first Thursday. My wine shop in Rome carried at least 10 different ones, and my corner store in New Orleans stocked three. Only one is available in Mid-Missouri, made by George DuBoeuf, and it's fine, it'll do, but there are others...(Randol's in St. Louis probably carries a greater variety).

However, if you're in the Ozarks and you want Nouveau for your Thanksgiving table (because at 12.5% alcohol, a light and fruity body, it's really the best wine for Thanksgiving lunch), St. James Winery has the answer. St. James Winery issued their 2011 Nouveau yesterday, the same day Beaujolais hit American soil, prompting me to drive well out of my way to St. James country pick up a bottle. (Leslie at the tasting bar recognizes me as the girl who specifically asks for Nouveau every year. She hollered at me today across the building as I walked in, "it's here! Your Nouveau is here!")

St. James blends three grapes to make their Nouveau: Chambourcin, Rougeon, and Corot Noir. The last day of harvest for this year's St. James Nouveau was September 2, so the grapes didn't have the advantage -like most of this year's Norton grapes- of those cool October nights. This was a tough summer for Missouri grapes, with drought and excessive heat lasting all summer long.

Back home, I ran past the wine shop for a bottle of (only) DuBoeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau to compare to St. James Nouveau. Bring out the Reidel pinot noir glasses, label them with my cellar tags: 1 and 2. Leave the aerator and the wine bottles to the professional in the house to give me a blind tasting in my dining room:

Wine glasses 1/10 full.

#1: Delicate, fruity, with not a lot of body. Almost effervescent in texture, despite the aerator. The finish isn't as clean as most Beaujolais'. Very drinkable.
#2: Full bodied but with a flat finish. Bigger notes of raspberry. Also effervescent with a barely distinguishable brightness. Clean finish, but a little thin.

Of course, this coming from a big Oregon pinot noir fan, a Walla Walla Cabernet fan, an aged Syrah lover....Nouveau is characteristically thin bodied, fruity, and even a little effervescent (which is why it's a holiday wine and not an everyday wine).

I pegged #2 as the French, and #1 as St. James. I chose correctly! The St. James comes with a screw cap at $9.99 a bottle. I'm drinking the French (plastic cork) and will segue into an 05 Syrah before the night is over. But Beaujolais season is so short, so enjoy! Brightness and Fruit! The Harvest!

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