The Character and Culture of Beaujolais Nouveau

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Mid-November means the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau wine. Larry Meiller finds out what is special about this young wine, and what the cultural traditions are surrounding it. Plus, recommendations for holiday wines.

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  • November Means Release Of Beaujolais Nouveau

    In Wisconsin, the third week of November is probably best known as the start of the gun deer hunting season. But a couple of days before that opener, there is another event that is marked both in Wisconsin and in France. The third Thursday of November is the release of that year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine.

    Philippe Coquard, the award-winning winemaker at Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, is from the Beaujolais region on France and comes from a winemaking family. When he came to Wisconsin, Bob Wollersheim invited him in 1984 to make a wine that was in keeping with the tradition of where he was from.

    “That was the beginning of the Ruby Nouveau,” Coquard said, which is the label of Wollersheim’s Beaujolais Nouveau.

    If in France this week, Coquard said it would be obvious that the release was imminent.

    “You would see winetasting everywhere! In every local bistro, every restaurant, and every winery has open houses. And not only in Beaujolais, but throughout Europe … everybody is celebrating the release of Beaujolais Nouveau,” he said.

    Things have changed a bit, he said but it’s still a significant occasion.

    “It might not be as big as it was 20, 30, 40 years ago but it’s still a worldwide celebration of the first wine of the year,” he said.

    Coquard explained that Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the gamay grape, which grows well in the Beaujolais region of France. Beaujolais Nouveau is the product of “whole berry fermentation,” Coquard said. That process is where the wine is fermented with the entire berry, instead of just parts of it.” That’s been the case since the 1960s, he said, and the wine has carried the name Beaujolais Nouveau ever since.

    “It’s a wine doesn’t have to age, should not age,” he said. “Drink it young! Drink it in the next three months, the next six months.”

    As for the taste, Coquard described it as “extremely fruity, and light, and floral.” He said that it goes well with Thanksgiving turkey and other holiday meals.

    Wollersheim will be marking the release of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. On Thursday, Nov. 21, there is a small celebration for the tapping of the first barrel. But Coquard said that the big tasting event is Saturday, Nov. 23. The public is welcome to attend both events.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Philippe Coquard Guest