Challop (noun) – plural : challops
1: Abbreviation for challenging opinion.
2: An irregularly published column on website Good Food Revolution.
Referred to by esteemed French wine critic François Mauss’ as “vin de merde” (shite wine), there was a day when Beaujolais Nouveau was sought after by much of Europe and North America. Back at Wine School in Scotland we were informed that Beaujolais Nouveau was the French Winemakers’ way of getting rid of all the wine the French themselves wouldn’t drink, i.e. “Let’s fob it off on all those clueless Anglophones”.
Now there may have been a grain of truth in this, but although export sales of Nouveau have dropped dramatically over the past decade, there is a still a thirsty audience for the stuff back home in France, where it is consumed with gusto and by the gallon in the gastronomic centres of Lyon and Paris.
The French see Beaujolais Nouveau as a celebration of the vintage, of a job well done, to be joyously slugged back with friends (and strangers) without too much thought, without too much dissection, and free of any of the snobbery that surrounds so much of our wine consumption in North America.
I can actually see myself getting quite into it if I were there. It’s seen as being fun, and nothing more, with seasoned wine drinkers understanding that they have to wait until the March releases of the Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages before they begin to find anything more than simple fruity aromatics in the glass. I fear that perhaps many of us have become much to snobby/snotty to truly appreciate the glorious fête of Beaujolais Nouveau, and that is probably a sad thing.
And I think that many of us are well overdue a return to pleasure.
With this in mind, last night I headed to Butchers-come-nocturnal Wine Bar Côte de Boeuf on Ossington for a hearty celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau…
If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.
The place was absolutely jammed with a observably mature, well-heeled crowd, and there was a healthy amount of Beaujolais Nouveau being slung back. In retrospect I’m not sure that we ever paid for all of the wine we had there. Yikes. They were being extremely generous with the Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages that I recommend below.
As the accordion player did his thing and the Moulin Rouge-esque burlesque dancing courtesy of Rouge La Rouge began, the room was truly alive with the joie de vivre of Paris, and for a fleeting moment it was easy to forget that we were in a butcher shop in Toronto on a chilly November evening. Ah, the wonders of Beaujolais Nouveau.
It was an altogether civilised affair in that beautifully candlelit room. But Côte de Boeuf wasn’t the only spot celebrating the stuff on the Ossington strip…
Just up the street at Jonathan Poon’s newly opened Superpoint, Gamay was getting some serious love courtesy of Lauren Wilton and guest Sommelier Krysta Oben (Byblos). With a lineup at the door, a younger, very mixed crowd, and extra tables set up at the very rear of the restaurant to accommodate the thirsty hordes, the crowd was certainly getting stuck into the neon-purple juice. A tad more raucous than the Gallic civility down the road, Superpoint was on fire with the energy that only Beaujolais Nouveau can bring to the table. Pearl Morissette’s wonderful Pinot Noir homage to the Nouveau style (dubbed “Intergalactic Space Wine”) was being guzzled like there was no tomorrow.
Upon waking this morning I found myself wondering why we don’t celebrate in this vinous fashion on a more regular basis. It was at that precise moment I realised that I had awoken next to a nerve-shredding hangover of quite frankly preposterous proportions, and swiftly decided that once a year is probably plenty.
Here’s to next November. À votre santé!
The following were my three top picks from the LCBO’s most recent Nouveau release:
2016 Mezzacorona Novello, Trentino, Italy (Alcohol 12.5%) LCBO $9.95
At a recent tasting this outlier from northern Italy was the favourite of many. Made with the Teroldego varietal, its peppery character and simple red fruit core reminded me a little of a lighter style of Zinfandel. Certainly requires quite a chill on it, as I found it a little clumsy at room temperature. Enjoyable nonetheless, and a steal at under ten bucks.
2016 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Alcohol 12.5%), Vintages $15.95
Drouhin’s 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau was all about crunchy red fruit, with just a touch of leafiness. There’s a definite pepper element on the nose, with a solid cherry/plum/raspberry fruit core. There’s a banana element in there that I found a little disconcerting at first, but it somehow fits in with the undeniably exuberant fruit profile. Stood up remarkably well at room temperature.
2016 George Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, Beaujolais, France (Alcohol 12.2%), Vintages $15.95
Not to be confused with the rather lacklustre Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau, this strikingly bright almost-neon purple wine is just begging to be “crushed” (as the bellend bellweather goes). Easily my top pick, as Msr. Duboeuf certainly knows his way around a Beaujolais Nouveau. Whilst it was certainly the most complex of the Nouveau wines I tasted, that’s not really saying all that much. Tonnes of crunchy, bright berry fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries) with some lemon and floral notes. There was certainly a bit of structure in here, a touch more substantial than the others in the lineup, perhaps even a smidgen of tannin in there with the rasping acidity. But let’s not fool ourselves here… this was simply a delicious bit of just-fermented juice. Pure red fruit pleasure in a glass. Cracking stuff! Definitely requires a good chill before serving.
(All wines are ranked out of a possible five apples)
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that was fantastic! Roll on next November.