Friday, 18 Jan 2019

Thanksgiving means new wine – not just Beaujolais

This is the season when wines bearing this year's vintage start to appear as freshly minted one-cent coins. Some early 2018 from South America, South Africa or the Antipodes have already appeared on store shelves, thanks to a harvest six months earlier than ours. The new Beaujolais, the most famous new wine of the northern hemisphere, arrives the third Thursday of November. And during the same week, the Austrian winemakers present their first wines of the vintage in wine taverns called heurige.

Beaujolais Nouveau is not really new. It began in the 19th century, according to "The Oxford Companion to Wine", while the recently pressed wine from the region had just fermented in cask on the path that would appeal to city dwellers in Lyon. Some of the oldest wines have probably been consumed by the winegrowers celebrating the harvest. In the 1950s, when the region was experiencing economic difficulties, winemakers were allowed to sell more "primeur" wine to quickly generate cash flow for each harvest.

Marketing quickly took over and the "Beaujolais Nouveau Day" became an unofficial holiday in France. The races to Paris began at midnight to see who could pass the new to the fastest Parisian thirsty. It is always celebrated with festivals in the Beaujolais region, just south of Burgundy.

New has become synonymous with Georges Duboeuf, a market marketing trader whose company is the largest and best known producer in the region – so much so that he won the nickname "Mr. Beaujolais. Georges Duboeuf is still the most popular and widely available Beaujolais in the United States. And not to miss a trend, the company sells its first new rosé beaujolais.

If your wine-loving friend makes fun of Beaujolais Nouveau and tells you it's not a serious wine, you just have to shrug and say, "So what?", It's not serious. It's an annual ritual, a commemoration of the harvest. And as it happens a week before the harvest festival, I often like to have a bottle on the Thanksgiving table.

The Austrian tradition of savoring freshly squeezed grape juice ("Most") and partly fermented wine ("Sturm"), followed by the recently completed wine, has not proved its worth on the international stage. It may not be as easily marketable as Beaujolais Nouveau. The tradition goes back to 1784, when Emperor Joseph II decreed that people could sell homemade food and wine without a special permit. Heuriger – the singular "heurige" – refers to "this year" and private taverns were a seasonal affair at harvest time. Today, they are open all year round and are particularly popular in Vienna, which has several hundred vineyards within the city limits. Many of them operate their own taverns.

The tradition may not have spread beyond Austria, but it has influenced the Austrian wines we drink. The continued popularity of the hustle and bustle among young Austrians and tourists has created a demand for wineries to release their wines earlier, even as soon as possible after harvest. Many wine growers are fed up with believing that their rieslings and veltliners grüner are enjoying more time in the cellar. This demand of the market is not limited, of course, to the generation of the Viennese millennium. We all tend to neglect the aging potential of white wines, mistakenly thinking that they are meant for early consumption.

In the United States, some wineries have adopted the new tradition. The Old Westminster Winery of Maryland has produced this year a wine called "Piquette" in 2018, its first new release. It is a blend of unspecified varietals, elaborated in the sparkling natural style, in which the wine finishes its fermentation in bottle, giving it sparkle and sparkle.

If you have already visited a cellar just after the harvest and felt the aroma of wine fermentation, you can relive those memories with Piquette. "It's a simple product, bottled directly from the tank, without any additions," says Drew Baker, vineyard manager and co-owner of Old Westminster. The term "no added" includes sulfur, the traditional preservative used to maintain stable wine.

As a red wine, Old Westminster's piquette resembles Italian lambrusco, an underappreciated partner of salumi and smoked meats, such as barbecue. Or turkey, with all the accompaniments.


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