It’s time again to pop the corks on bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, the polarizing French wine that makes for good fun once a year.
French law prohibits new batches of the light-bodied and fruity wine, made from Gamay grapes, from being served until the third Thursday in November, making the opening of the rapidly aged and bottled wine an event. To sip it is to celebrate the harvest with the first 2012 wine that will hit your lips.
If there aren’t quite as many celebrations this year, it might be because the harvest in Beaujolais was predicted to be half what it was in 2011 (perhaps the lowest production in 10 years) as a result of the poor spring weather.
But Beaujolais producers have insisted that small berries mean concentrated flavor, thus more complex 2012 wines. Finer restaurants say none of it matters much, because they really only carry enough Beaujolais Nouveau for one free-spirited night of sipping. Judge for yourself this Wednesday and Thursday at area Beaujolais bashes:
Bistrot Du Coin
If being first to sip what is available of the 2012 vintage is of utmost importance, get in line at Bistrot Du Coin around 11 p.m. Wednesday. When all the diners have wrapped up their meals and the clock has hit midnight, the restaurant pushes the tables aside, brings in a DJ, flicks on the disco lights and starts pouring free nouveau for what can be as many 400 revelers over the course of the night. The restaurant is spacious, but be prepared for a wait.
The Embassy of France
The Alliance Francaise celebrates the harvest with a bash featuring bread, cheeses, pates and pastries, a DJ and plenty of Georges Duboeuf. For those not sold on that stuff, there will also be a pretty excellent wine selection, including sauvignon blanc from Sonoma’s Kunde Family Estate, tempranillo from Spain’s Ramon Bilbao and merlot from Italy’s Barone Fini. Tickets are $55 for general admission; they can be purchased here.
Central Michel Richard
Central won’t be handing out free glasses of wine, but make a reservation for Thursday night or find a seat by the bar from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and you can order glasses or bottles of Domaine Dupeubles Beaujolais Nouveau (which will be priced around $6 a glass, and $24 for a bottle). Order from a special menu with French fare, listen to the sounds of French-inspired gypsy jazz group Laissez-Foure, and drink other wines from Burgundy at 15 percent off. Wine director David Hale will also lead diners in wine games, asking them to guess qualities about some of the wines on the menu; just let the wine server or bartender know you want to play, and you might score yourself a pour or two.
The first half-glass tasting of the 2012 Beaujolais is free at Bistro Lepic’s smallish event Thursday night at the second-floor wine bar, beginning at 6 p.m. After you sample, you can order it by the glass (for $8-$10) or hang out and order something else.