Yesterday saw the launch of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, an important date for many in the wine calendar. Produced from Gamay grapes, the wine is fermented for only a matter of weeks before it is released for sale on the third Thursday of November each year.
Originally, Beaujolais Nouveau was made to be enjoyed as a celebratory drink for workers at the end of the annual harvest. However, in the 1950s, a group of local producers spotted the potential for this young, drinkable wine to be marketed properly. This sparked the concept of a race to Paris with the new vintage, as restaurants and bars clamoured to be the first to list the wines each year. By the 1970s, this race had become international, with restaurants all over the world attempting to secure the wines as early as possible. Nowadays, it is shipped all over the world ahead of the release date, then displayed in local markets from the third Thursday in November.
Beaujolais Nouveau is light and youthful, bottled only 6-8 weeks following the harvest. Traditionally served slightly chilled, it displays very little tannins and is dominated by fruity flavours such as banana, grape, strawberry and fig. Due to the winemaking processes involved in the production of these wines, they show clearly defined variations between vintages. Therefore, the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau is considered to be an early indicator of the quality of the harvest.
However, not all Beaujolais has to be enjoyed within months of bottling. Appellations such as Fleurie produce wines of great quality that can be aged for a couple of years before drinking. Likewise, the area of Moulin-à-Vent, a small 2-mile-square area of land on granite soils, has the potential to produce wines that, when fully mature, resemble more a fine Burgundy or even a Rhône, than Beaujolais.
We at l’Art du Vin think that Moulin-à-Vent is one of the regions worldwide which best vindicates the principle of ‘terroir’. Fleurie, which is the neighbouring appellation, produces velvety, perfumed wines which are extremely approachable. On the other hand, wines which are meatier, more intense and possessing heavier tannins are produced just a couple of miles along the road in Moulin-à-Vent, despite the fact that both styles are made using the same grape - 100% Gamay.
We are fortunate at l’Art du Vin to work with Yohan Lardy, an undoubted rising star of the French wine world. Having worked with his father, Lucien Lardy, for a number of years, we were aware of Yohan’s potential from a young age. He studied at viticultural college then travelled the world in order to gain as much winemaking experience as possible, most notably in the production of Pinot Noir in Oregon.
He then returned to work at his father’s estate in Beaujolais, before acquiring his own small plot of land, comprising only 2 hectares, in Moulin-à-Vent. He ferments his grapes using wild yeasts, then ages the wine for 8 months in 2-3 year old barriques. The result is stunning; a wine that we believe would not be out of place in a Côte de Beaune tasting.