Carbonic Maceration = Beaujolais Nouveau

Today is the third Thursday of November, and you know what that means? The first release of the 2012 vintage is on the shelves. Every year, on the third Thursday of November, the French release the Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine that is fermented, bottled, shipped, and on the shelves in less than nine weeks. Due to French laws, the wine cannot be served or sold until this day.

I have written about Beaujolais Nouveau in the past, but every year is a new vintage. This year, the European wine growers have had a challenging year. Faced with severe frost in February, and hailstorms in April and August, the amount of available grapes was half the normal crop.

Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be a celebratory wine, to welcome the latest harvest. If you haven't tried a Nouveau style wine, you might be in for a surprise. It has a different taste to it, due to the fermentation process that the grapes go through. Instead of the normal crushed grapes, sitting in open vats, with the active yeast and sugars working together, these Gamay grapes go through a process known as Carbonic Maceration.

Carbonic Maceration is a simple way of making fruit forward wines, with less tannin. The grapes are put into large, covered tanks, un-crushed. The weight of the grapes in the tank, does crush the lower grapes, and those begin to ferment as normal. Since the tank is covered, the carbon dioxide that is given off by the ferementing grapes, is captured in the tank, creating an anaerobic atmosphere. In the absence of oxygen, the uncrushed grape berries begin to go through an enzymatic, intracellular process. They basically begin to breakdown from the inside out. The sugars, and harsh malic acids also breakdown. The polyphenols (in the grape skins) are absorbed into the grape pulp, turning the pulp pink (remember that most grapes have clear juice and pulp). Once the alcohol level reaches about 2%, and before the grapes actually die, the must is pressed, and the juice continues to ferment in the normal way.

The resulting wine typically produces strawberry, cherry and raspberry notes, but leaning more towards the candied variety. Notes of banana are often present. This is a light, fruity wine, with no, or little tannins. When serving, remember to chill the wine, as it is meant to be around 55 degrees. Also, don't hold on to the wine. This is not a wine to store, and probably won't make it to New Years.

As I have mentioned in two previous blogs, this is the perfect wine for Thanksgiving, as it can pair with a number of different types of food. And, what is Thanksgiving?...a mix of all types of foods (and people with different wine preferences). Since it is so light, this red can work with both light and dark meats, as well as salads, pasta, and cheese. On top of that, your wine budget won't go through the roof, as Beaujolais Nouveau is pretty inexpensive.

The most visible producer is George Deboeuf, but most visible, doesn't always mean the best. I find that Joseph Drouhin, and Louis Jadot make a better wine, and a slightly higher price. Of course, that is my opinion, and encourage you to try them and make your own decisions.

Have fun! Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be celebrated, and the first sip of the 2012 vintage.

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