Cheers! Wine Consultants

By Dan & Krista Stockman


One of the things we love about wine is that you never really know what to expect. This is also what drives some people crazy about wine.

In our culture, we tend to want to know that when we open a gallon of milk, it's going to taste like milk. When we order a Big Mac, it's going to taste like a Big Mac. When we go to Target in another city, we want the layout to be just like the layout of our Target at home. If it's not, we get confused, frustrated and can't find anything. But what if we looked at that experience as an adventure? A time to stretch our minds and our legs and experience something new?

That is why we love wine. It's always an adventure – for good or ill. (And rarely would we say for ill.)

Last month, we celebrated one of our favorite holidays – Nouveau Day. It's the third Thursday in November; the day in France when the first wine of the vintage is released. What was just grapes a few weeks earlier has been pressed, fermented, bottled and shipped around the world. The result – Beaujolais Nouveau – is a fun, fresh, fruity wine that you can only find for a few weeks and should be consumed by New Year's Day.

This wine is supposed to be an indication of how good the Beaujolais vintage will be. After all, Nouveau is just one of many wines to come from the Beaujolais region.

But in recent years, we've wondered how much of the vintage really came through in the bottles we buy here in the United States. After all, if you can find it here in time for Nouveau Day, it's a large, mass produced wine. Still yummy, and we still celebrate each year, but mass produced none-the-less.

This year, however, proved to us that, indeed, the vintage matters.

We started as we always do with the George DuBoeuf Nouveau, which is the version you are most likely to find in your local grocery store. We start with DuBoeuf because it's the wine most people can find and because it tends to be simpler. It's a fun party in a glass, and it's a great way to kick off the short Nouveau season.

This year, we were taken aback a bit when the wine was not what we expected. Our first bottle was harsh with a bit of nail polish remover on the nose. It still had hints of what we expect from Nouveau, but we wondered if we got a bad bottle. The wine was grape juicy, kind of flat and one-dimensional. Certainly, it wasn't the party we were used to experiencing. It had tastes of unripe fruit, though those seemed to smooth out as it opened up.

Three weeks later, we tried a second bottle, and it was definitely better. Either it was from a different batch or the bottle aging that took place over those three weeks took out the harshness and the nail polish remover, but the hints of green fruit were still there.

While some people would be disappointed if they opened a bottle and found it didn't taste like the bottle they had a year ago, we were thrilled. This meant that Nouveau still really does represent the Beaujolais vintage. What does it mean? Well, we don't know. But maybe this is a vintage that needs to age a little longer. Or maybe it just isn't going to be a stellar vintage for Beaujolais. We all have bad years, right?

The next two bottles were from WineTime, which takes care to avoid the ubiquitous DuBeouf and carry Nouveau you won't find anywhere else. Our bottle of these was Mommessin, a vintner we've had before. The nose was instantly yeasty like we expect from Nouveau, but we still got some of that green fruit in the taste. (That's when we knew that the DuBoeuf likely wasn't a bad bottle, just representative of the vintage.) It was more vibrant and smoother, but we wouldn't advise eating it with Little Caesar's pizza. We ended up setting it aside until dinner was over so we could enjoy it more.

Next we had the Joseph Drouhin, a perennial favorite of ours. The Drouhin was young and fruity on the nose, as you would expect. It had some richness and even a touch of butter. Drouhin is always a little more reserved than other Nouveau – more black tie and less frat party. This one didn't have the same harshness as the others, but it also wasn't as complex as we've had in previous years.

Our final bottle was the Henry Fessy Beaujolais Nouveau, which we found in Chicago and always has our favorite label, as it features a Can-Can Dancer. As soon as we smelled this one, we said to each other, “Wow. Now that's Nouveau.” It smelled like it was fresh from the wine cellar. On the palette it was flowery with hints of rose petal (maybe to cover up the greenness?). It was fresh but not super fruity, and it certainly was softer and rounder than years past. Though it was good, it still was not the party in the bottle of most years.

So, should you go out and get a bottle? Yes! This is a great adventure in experiencing vintage wine. Each year should be different; just like each year of our lives is different. So drink up and think about the year you had and the years yet to come.


This year's Nouveau proves wine is an adventure