Countdown to Beaujolais NouveauThe World and Seoul Await This Year's Wine, Which Arrives Thursday
November has come, and wine lovers around the world are counting down the days until the arrival of this year's Beaujolais nouveau. French law forbids the release of Beaujolais nouveau before the third Thursday in November, which this year will be in two days.
The moment the clock strikes midnight, corks slide out around the world, the wine having already been jetted to the big cities. Increasingly, restaurants in Seoul create special menus to celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau.
So what is Beaujolais nouveau?
Beaujolais is a light and fruity wine made from the gamay grape in the Beaujolais region of southern Burgundy in France. Although many people prefer older wines that have fermented for a longer time, most Beaujolais is meant to be drunk young, within a few years after the grapes are picked. Some is more worthy of aging. But Beaujolais nouveau (nouveau means new in French) takes the young and fruity concept even further.
Beaujolais nouveau is made － like most Beaujolais wine － using a process called carbonic maceration. For Beaujolais nouveau, the grapes are pressed and combined with the juice produced by carbonic maceration after only a few days, and fermentation proceeds quickly to conclusion.
The result of carbonic maceration is that a minimal amount of tannin (contained in grape skins) gets into the wine. So the nouveau wine is soft and supple, since grape skins have less contact with the juice. The process also produces wines that have a light plum, almost rosy color and fresh berry flavors.
After about seven weeks, the wine is bottled and shipped. Depending on the harvest, 3.5 to 4.5 million cases of Beaujolais nouveau are produced each year, 30 to 40 percent of all Beaujolais.
Beaujolais nouveau is a good choice for beginners because the taste is very light and fruity and the price is reasonable, normally from $4.00 to $10.00 a bottle at most restaurants in major cities of the United States. Seoul, where wine is becoming a part of popular culture, will also celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau in the third week of this month.
In wine stores in Seoul, a bottle will cost about 20,000 won. In restaurants, Beaujolais nouveau sells for between 50,000 won and 68,000 won a bottle, significantly more expensive than in Europe and the United States.
The Restaurant in Sokyuk-dong (across the street from Kyongbok Palace) is all set to celebrate. Following the success of last year's special Beaujolais menu, the Restaurant this year recommends beef fillet with goose liver truffle sauce accompanied by Beaujolais nouveau. It results in a simple but pleasant combination of tender beef, the distinctive flavor of truffles and the fresh and fruity tastes of Beaujolais nouveau.
For those looking for a more experimental experience of the wine, the restaurant called Mr. Loong may be the answer. Unlike most Chinese restaurants in Seoul, Mr. Loong, which is in Shinsa-dong, will prepare a dish especially for the night.
"Because wine goes surprisingly well with all Chinese dishes, we started to serve not only Chinese liquors and spirits but also a large selection of wines at our restaurant," said Hong Dong-ho, the manager. Because Beaujolais nouveau is lighter and fresher than other red wines, it goes well with seafood dishes. At Mr. Loong's, Mr. Hong recommends a special menu of sauteed minced prawns stuffed in sea cucumber. The authentic flavor of China mingles with the fruity character of the wine from Europe.
Beaujolais nouveau can also be easily purchased at wine cellars throughout Korea for those who would like to enjoy it at home. Maison du Vin in the basement of Hyundai Department Store in Apkujong plans to hold a special wine tasting party on Thursday afternoon. "Guests will be served one free glass of Beaujolais nouveau," said Lee Jie-eun, wine advisor at Maison du Vin. "We plan to sell about three different kinds of Beaujolais nouveau this year, including Beaujolais village, a premium quality wine.
Is any wine bad with Thanksgiving dinner? Not really, but some are better than others, and Thanksgiving is a fun excuse to try something new. For those planning to cook turkey at home, how about a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau to go with it this year?
by Ser Myo-ja