Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drink Local this November 20th

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est (almost) arrivé...and it's time to change that.

The third Thursday in November is the traditional arrival date for each year's Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine made fast to be drunk young -- it's only a few weeks old on its release date. Most will be consumed before Christmas, much of it at parties celebrating the "big event." Because of the huge demand for it on its release date, literally tons of it are airfreighted around the world each year. Over a million cases will leave small towns in the Beaujolais region of France this week (French law requires it not start its journey more than one week before release date), headed for Paris' deGaulle airport for frantic shipment all over the world so people can throw Beaujolais Nouveau parties this weekend.

Here's the funny part: Beaujolais Nouveau was traditionally produced to be consumed in the small towns of the Beaujolais region as a stopgap while waiting for the the good stuff to mature. It was exciting to the locals because it was the first wine of a particular vintage. And it was cheap and plentiful, so local festivals grew up around the release date. Not because the wine is so good it's worth celebrating, but because people are always looking for a reason to party. The idea just snowballed from there, helped along by savvy marketers of Beaujolais Nouveau. There's nothing more to it than that. All the hype surrounding it is just that: hype. It was never about the wine. The idea of all that fuel being spent on flying so-so wine halfway around the world as fast as possible is almost obscene.

A better choice for oenophiles and locaquaffers alike: drink something local. You'll almost certainly get a better wine, you'll be supporting local wineries, and you won't be contributing to all that wasted fuel. Our local Appelation is Ohio River Valley, with fifteen wineries, some of them truly excellent.

Two wines worth holding a party to sample: For a medium-bodied wine that will beat the pants off Beaujolais Nouveau, try Harmony Hill's 2007 Rubato, which won a Silver Medal at the 2008 American Wine Society Competition. For something more complex go for Kinkead Ridge's 2006 River Village Cellars Cabernet Franc.

And if you've already ordered your Beaujolais Nouveau for this year's party? Kinkead Ridge's Ron Barrett says, "Save the bottles. Next year, fill them with jug wine. No one will know the difference."

Update: Wine Girl reports that two of the biggest importers of Beaujolais Nouveau have taken some steps to make the event less environmentally unfriendly.


Michelle said...

You know I love local wines and wineries. I support them, I have cases of their wines, and I help promote them. I judged the Ohio/Michigan wine competition.

But I think the blow-up over BN is a little much. First off, not all BN is Georges Debeouf swill. Some of it is really good, small producer stuff. And if we're going to get all upset over BN, should we get upset over California, Spain, Oregon, and any other wine that is not from here?

I love our local wines and wineries. But sometimes its hard to come by those local wines - esp when you live in Kentucky. I can't buy my beloved Kinkead Ridge and Harmony Hill around here, and if I'm just running out to grab a bottle, that's a problem. (It gets into the deeper problem of ridiculous distribution laws, but that's another rant altogether.) Even Burnet Ridge has opted to stop being carried in Kentucky.

I laughed when I was asked to drive 4 hours round-trip to judge a local wine competition in the spirit of reducing a carbon footprint.

So while I heartily support drinking local as much as possible, we need to admit it's not always possible.

valereee said...

Michelle, it's not that I think all Beaujolais Nouveau is swill and no one should ever drink it. But this week, HUGE amounts of mostly-inferior BN is being airfreighted all over the world because it's got an absurdly short demand period.

Most California, Spanish, Oregon, and French wines aren't airfreighted. They're groundshipped or seafreighted. There's no hurry. They arrive next week instead of tomorrow morning? No biggie. That's the issue. In general, wine is a product that shouldn't be flown. The reason this wine gets flown is because it's been hyped as a big deal to get it on release day. I think we need to take a step back from that and think about what it means.

valereee said...

Wine Girl reports that two of the largest importers of BN have taken steps to make the event more environmentally friendly.