17 November 2011

Les vins nouveaux arrivent aujourd'hui

Last night we watched a television show on France 3 about the history of French presidential elections since the Fifth Republic was set up by General De Gaulle in the early 1960s. One short segment was about a candidate in 1995 — a sitting prime minister — who didn't win the election.

One of the reasons why he didn't win, the report said, was that he was too distant, almost haughty, and people couldn't relate to him. They didn't like him. As evidence, they showed him attending a campaign event in Burgundy at which wine was served. Somebody poured him a glass of Chablis (a Burgundy Chardonnay wine) and he said, « Non, merci, je n'aime pas le vin de Chablis. »

How about a glass of red Burgundy, then? No, the tactless candidate said, "I don't drink Burgundy. I only like Bordeaux wine." Oops. That's not a good way to win over a crowd in Burgundy, where wine is big business and, especially, the object of a lot of local pride. Most of the movers and shakers in the region are involved in wine in one way or another.

So in France, it's important to know something about wine, and to appreciate wine in general. Don't come to the Loire Valley and tell people you only like Bordeaux. Try a Chinon, a Bourgueil, or a Touraine rouge. And smile and say it's good, no matter whether you think you'd prefer a Burgundy, a Bordeaux, or a Côtes du Rhône. The point is not to compare wines, but to enjoy the local products for what they are.

Touraine Sauvignon and Gamay vins de primeur
are being released to the public today.

By the way, the primeur wines are being released today in Touraine and elsewhere. Those are the 2011 vintage wines, and they have just barely finished their fermentation. They're light and fruity, and need to be consumed right now. They won't benefit from aging — au contraire. They are made to be enjoyed even before all the 2011 leaves are off the vines. They are an antidote to the autumn blahs.

The winemakers of the Beaujolais region turned the vins nouveaux phenomenon into a big event in France and worldwide. The fad seems to have died down slightly now, because people realized that it was overblown and over-marketed. It's still an event in France. The morning news just had a report about a crowd in Lyon waiting until midnight last night for a first taste of the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. It's a wine that gives us joie de vivre, one woman said.

The "new wines" are not touted as the finest wines you'll ever taste. But they are light and refreshing, they're interesting as a category, and they give the wine business overall a boost just before the holiday season. Some cynics might say you'll enjoy getting back to your regular wines after tasting a few vins nouveaux.

Guy Lévêque's wines are made from hand-harvested grapes
in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher near Saint-Aignan.

Walt and I got a preview of the 2011 Touraine nouveaux wines yesterday. The ones we bought are not AOC wines but of the vin de pays category — local wines. Maybe it's only the AOC primeur wines that can't be released until today.

The wines we tasted yesterday, from the Domaine de la Renne in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher just across the river, lived up to the name nouveau. The Touraine Sauvignon white was good as an apéritif, and the Gamay red was tasty with our lunch of roast pork shoulder, pommes de terre frites, and salad.


  1. Somewhere, a while ago I watched a TV show about the logistics of delivering Beaujolais Nouveau around the world at the same time.

    It was very interesting,as the company used any and all means of transportation.

  2. I think the label looks very pretty. Generally that's how I choose between similar wines. Quite the connoisseur?

  3. A lot of colours on the bottle, very very good.

  4. Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive! Et les autres primeurs aussi.
    As to the logistics of Beaujolais Nouveau, many years ago the rules were changed to allow the wines to be shipped (to the US for example) ahead of time, but not released for consumption until the 3rd Thursday in November.

  5. Another good read again Ken. Off to work now!

  6. Nadege, you must go to work quite early or really late at night.
    Interesting story about a true wine snob, Ken.

  7. By missing yesterday's blog entry, I missed Judy's wedding announcement till just now. A glass of Beaujolais Nouveau to you and your fiance, Judy! Best wishes.

  8. Those wines sound delicious. That candidate had much bigger problems.

  9. I wouldn't have that problem. I've liked almost every wine I've ever had.

  10. Thank you! We loved red Chinon ... And the idea of having fun with the newest reds in November ... So much fun! We will try for a new French red in the Bay area. Enjoy!

  11. Ann, Bob R., and all: we had a bottle of 2011 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau yesterday that we both thought was excellent — fruity but not sweet or grapey, light but not thin, with a nice color — very pleasant. It was labeled Le Chat Rouge and came from the village of Quincié-en-Beaujolais.


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