It's November 17. Do you know what it means?
A clue: It's the third Thursday in November. What makes it so important?
No, it isn't my birthday. Send presents at another time.
It's the day for Beaujolais Nouveau, the third Thursday in November, when the 2011 wine is released to people who have been holding their breath for 11 months, or since the day they finished their 2010 stock.
The release of the Nouveaus used to be a big day for p.r. types who conjured up wacky races and midnight bar openings to publicize the arrival of the new wine, most of which had been around several weeks, though not in a position to be sold. It was innocent fun.
The wine comes from the Beaujolais region, which overlaps a little of Burgundy to the north and a little of the Rhone region to the south. Gamay is the prime grape, and the popular Nouveaus of Georges Duboeuf are made of 100 percent Gamay. The grape, rather low in alcohol, tends to be high in acid, and therefore must be picked early, vinified early, bottled early and drunk early. The 2011 harvest began on Aug. 22 and ended Sept. 15, which means that we've traveled from harvest to tasting glass in less than three months.
Duboeuf makes a Beaujolais Nouveau and a Beaujolais Village Nouveau, the latter considered to be of slightly higher quality. The retail price is about $10, and be sure not to buy too much because the wine will be over the hill by the end of the year. This year. 2011.
I tasted both of the wines last night (shortly before midnight) and enjoyed then. To my taste, they were better than a year ago. The "standard" was a dark maroon in color, and the aroma of fresh grapes practically exploded from the bottle. The flavor had the same emphasis on grapiness, and was very flavorful. The Villages, tending to crimson rather than purple, showed more depth, more complexity, more mystery. The aroma had a hint of blackberry and the palate showed a little more restraint, but more richness. Very tasty, with a longer finish, a wine that showed much promise, even though we know it cannot fulfill it. Again, a wine to be drunk soon.
Talking to Franck Duboeuf, son of Georges, a few weeks ago, brought the standard, optimistic comment of a Beaujolais Nouveau producer.
"This is going to be one of the best years we've ever had," he said cheerfully. "The weather was right, the growing conditions perfect."
The wine is tasty and pleasant to drink. Either will be very good with the Thanksgiving turkey; my preference would be to quaff the "standard" before the meal, to sip the Villages during it.