Beaujolais Nouveau launches extraordinary 2011

Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:46am EST
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By Marcel Michelson

PARIS (Reuters) - Wine lovers will get their first taste of the much-talked about 2011 harvest on Thursday as the "Beaujolais Nouveau" hits the bars and shelves of France and the wider world.

Proud of a 60-year tradition that has been propelled to global renown by a sleek retailing campaign, 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.

"At the start of my career, the arrival of the new Beaujolais was a pretext to share and have friendly parties," said Emmanuel Delmas, a consultant-sommelier wine-expert.

"Today, the event is out of fashion. Consumers no longer accept bad wine and are looking for drinking pleasure, even if this means paying a bit more," he added.

At an average 4 euros ($5.41) a bottle for a wine made in less than 10 weeks, Beaujolais Nouveau remains a profitable operation for many producers.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape. The 2011 vintage, a year characterized by unusual weather leading to relatively early harvests, appears to have provided higher quality wine from fewer grapes. The 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau was harvested early and could mature a bit longer until the traditional third Thursday of November.

Christophe Pacalet is based in Ville-Morgon, part of the Beaujolais area, and produces several kinds of wine as well as some Beaujolais Nouveau. He is respectful of nature on the vineyards he acquired in 1999 with his uncle.

At a tasting on Thursday the wine had the typical Gamay smell with a whiff of banana. The first impression was of red fruit that lingers in the mouth turning toward a riper dark fruit with a hint of liquorice. A balanced wine with no acidity. Pacalet's wine sells for eight euros a bottle.   Continued...

<p>Men roll barrels of Beaujolais Nouveau wine for the official launch of the 2011 vintage in the center of Lyon early November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Pratta</p>