Wine Tips of the Week: Don't Buy Beaujolais Nouveau This Year! And praising Malbec.
Dean and Lisa Foster
We've never directly recommended against buying a wine before (not in our newsletter or blog, anyway). Last year we recommended the Beaujolais Nouveau 2010, bought several bottles ourselves including the 1.5 L bottle, and took this wine to a party or two. Not this year.
Nouveau is released every year on the 3rd Thursday of November. This year that was Thursday, November 17. The Georges Duboeuf is the only 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau available off the shelf in PLCB stores. Others are available by special order.
The Georges Duboeuf is Beaujolais Nouveau thin and bitter. We don't expect much of this wine in any year but this year, despite our low expectations, we were REALLY disappointed. But, don't take our word for it. Go ahead and buy a bottle and let us know what you think. It's currently available at all PLCB stores, product code 5877, for $12.99 (plus tax) per 750 ml bottle. 1.5 L bottles are also available for $23.99 (plus tax). Most stores have big displays near the front of the store.
A Reuters news release says "Beaujolais seeks to burnish its image as a wine to celebrate the new vintage and dampen criticism that its popularity lies more in the marketing than in the quality of the wine." Judge for yourself. This year we think it's all about marketing.
The Beaujolais region, within the Burgundy region of France, produces some fine wine. Like Nouveau Beaujolais, other Beaujolais wines are made from the Gamay grape. Generally, wines made from Gamay are light and fruity and easy to drink. We've tasted (and bought) a few made in the USA and they have been good wines.
Nouveau Beaujolais is made differently from other Beaujolais and Gamay wines. It is made quickly, taking about 10 weeks from harvest to market. The juice spends almost no time on its grape skins and never sees oak, so it is light in tannin. The idea is to produce an inexpensive, light, drinkable wine quickly to celebrate the new harvest (and to help with cash flow). The wine and its release is highly celebrated and usually a lot of fun. But, we're not buying any more this year and aren't sure if the wine still in the bottle we opened yesterday will find its way to the glass, or just the kitchen sink.
We've been looking forward to this tasting for months and we were not disappointed. The hosts served six Malbecs including three from Argentina, two from France, and one from Washington State. Some were blends with Malbec composing less than half of the blend. In the case of Washington wine, only 4% we Malbec. But, we're fine with these blends because Malbec is often used as a blending wine to add color and complexity to other wines. Tasting the blends was interesting and educational. However, we're still fans of 1005 (or close) Malbecs from Mendoza, Argentina, and have been drinking, writing, and recommending several over the past few years.
Our favorite last night was Maipe Reserve from Mendoza. However, the surprise of the evening and the overall favorite of the group was Chateau Caminade Cahors "La Commnadery 2088 (Cohors, France). Although our hosts purchased all of their Malbecs from Wine.com, this favorite is available in PA as a special order, PLCB code 52318 for $21.89 per bottle with a minimum order of 12 bottles.
A Maipe Malbec is available at some PLCB stores, code 25616, for only $11.99 per bottle. This is NOT the reserve we tasted last night, but at this price, we're going to try it (the reserve from Wine.com was only $13.79 per bottle).
In our last blog and newsletter, we recommended Altivo Barrel Select Malbec, which we used at the benefit wine tasting at the Pottstown Regional Public Library, which was very successful thanks to the 70 people who attended. We've repeated that past article below.
We've found that there are different styles of Malbec fruity, powerful, and complex. We prefer the complex style, which is big, bold, and with a little less alcohol (13.5 % vs. 14.9%) than the powerful style. Overall, Malbec is usually lighter in tannins than you'd expect given its color. We like the sharper tannins, more complex and intense taste, which is why we probably preferred the Maipe over the Cahors and other four Malbecs last night.
November 19 & 20
(From the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail website)
It's also a great opportunity to purchase wines for the upcoming holiday season to give as gifts or to drink at dinner.