by Fred McMillin
for December 11, 1997

Something New Under the Sun


  • 1965 Schoonmaker Wine Encyclopedia—No mention of Beaujolais Nouveau.

  • 1988 Schoonmaker Wine Encyclopedia -"Beaujolais Nouveau has become very popular in the past twenty years. These are especially light and fruity wines, legally released in France within a few weeks after harvest on the third Thursday of November. Nearly half of all Beaujolais is now sold as nouveau [French for 'new']."
The Rest of the Story: The Nouveau did not receive immediate critical acclaim as it reached our shores in the 1970s. E.g., the New York Times said:

February, 1976—"The 1975 Beaujolais nouveau in Paris was not very good and that finding its way to New York was worse, not worth the $3.50 or more for a bottle."

c. February, 1989—"Beaujolais nouveau is an amusing diversion in the late fall."

But regardless of the critics, the public bought the wine, millions and millions of bottles every year. So, today, the youthful wine is recognized by other critics as "extremely important." Last November, even the Times gave it more respect, saying "Beaujolais nouveau is a perfectly acceptable wine for Thanksgiving, easy to drink and easy on the pocketbook."

Now, this phenomenon did not go unnoticed by California vintners; a Beringer Nouveau first appeared in 1990. It is delightfully light and fruity, and available several weeks BEFORE the French version, October 28 being the release date of 1997 model. As far as we know, it's the first 1997 California wine on the market...plenty of time to check it out before the winter holidays. Winemaker Ed Sbragia has put a lot of work into this one. Believe me, it is no "amusing diversion."

The Wine:
1997 Nouveau Gamay Beaujolais, California
Beringer Vineyards
St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
Contact—Phyllis Turner, (707) 963-7115, X-2132

Postscript: Although Ed has only a few weeks to make his Nouveau, he puts it through both CARBONIC MACERATION and MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION...there wasn't time for anything more before he had to pop it into the bottle!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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