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Cleveland's answer to France's Beaujolais Nouveau tradition...

December 03, 2023

Cleveland's answer to France's Beaujolais Nouveau tradition...

Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine traditionally made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. But it is so much more than just a bottle of wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is a day, a celebration, and a global phenomenon every single November. And here at CLE Urban Winery, we wanted to be a part of it! 

In France, Beaujolais Nouveau is usually bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest and its light red coloring and light body reflects its youth. The must (freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit) is pressed early (after only three days). This means that the deep colors and big tannins normally found in red wines are barely there making for a very easy-to-drink, fruity red wine. About 25 percent of annual Beaujolais wine production is Beaujolais Nouveau, or roughly 2.7 million cases of wine a year. This year, we produced 19 cases of our version of this wine, and as of the writing of this blog, we still have some of this light, tart, dry, and fruity little wine available in glass pours for a few more weeks.

Historically, Beaujolais Nouveau is made to celebrate the harvest and French law allows this wine to be released each year on the third Thursday of November. This date has become an international "alco-holiday" dubbed Beaujolais Nouveau Day when people around the world flock to wine stores to snag brightly colored bottles of this new wine. What began as a local phenomenon in France has become a party across Europe and elsewhere where people seek out the new Beaujolais wine, take the day off, and indulge in pure enjoyment of it all day! Beaujolais Nouveau is also a great wine to enjoy with all the foods on the Thanksgiving table.

It’s commonly believed that the global Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon was born in the late 1970s when Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf came to New York just before Thanksgiving with a clever slogan - “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” - and plenty of new wine to sell. I first discovered Georges Duboeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau at a Total Wine store in Fairfax, Virginia in the early 2000s. The flashy, brightly colored bottle drew me in. I was a novice wine drinker at the time, and my palate had not yet developed to the point where I enjoyed bold. dry red wines. Beaujolais Nouveau became my "gateway red" - helping me evolve my palate to drink bigger reds. It became my tradition to buy a case of this wine every year on Beaujolais Nouveau Day to enjoy for over the next several weeks. Most wine drinkers don't start out drinking Cabernet Sauvignon... they start with Moscato perhaps, and then progress to something less sweet and more bright and acidic like Pinot Grigio. Then, there's usually a light-bodied gateway red, like Chianti, Pinot Noir or perhaps our own Buckeye Blackberry Merlot, that bridges them to become red wine drinkers. Beaujolais Nouveau was my gateway red.

When I opened CLE Urban Winery, I wanted to be part of this wine tradition... I figured if they could do it in France, we could do it in Cleveland! Each year since November 2017, we have produced and released our own small-batch version of this special wine, exclusively by the bottle for our Community Wine Club members only, and to serve over the Tasting Room bar by the glass until it's gone. That's the magic of Beaujolais Nouveau - it's a celebratory joy to drink and it is as fleeting as the brightly colored fall leaves we see all around us as we raise a glass! Part of the fun is knowing that on the same night each year, in wineries, bars, and homes around the world, the same celebration is going on. 

For our Community Wine Club monthly food and wine pairing in November, I paired our version of Beaujolais Nouveau with Cranberry Orange Pecan muffins. This "matchy-matchy" pairing really highlighted the cranberry notes prominent in both the muffins and in the wine. It is also delicious baked and served as a loaf. Here's the recipe:

Cream together ¼ cup softened salter butter and 10 tbsp packed light brown sugar with a mixer. Add in 1 egg and ½ tsp vanilla and mix in fully. In a separate bowl, combine 1 ¼ cup AP flour, 1 ¼ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp baking soda and ¼ tsp salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones, alternating with ½ cup of buttermilk. Mix well. Fold in 1 tsp orange zest, ½ cup fresh cranberries and ¼ cup chopped pecans. Scoop into muffin cups or greased muffin tins, 2/3 full. Chop up 2 tbsp pecans and 2 tbsp fresh cranberries to sprinkle in top on the muffins before baking. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Eat the muffins while warm or let them cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container.      

The second wine we featured for our Community Wine Club in November was our Lake Erie Riesling. This wine is also a great pairing with holiday meals. Our off dry Riesling has tropical notes of pineapple but has bright acidity to balance out the sweetness. I love this wine paired in a "ying and yang" fashion - sweet and salty/savory or sweet and heat. My Wine Club food pairing for this wine was Mexican Street Corn Salad - creamy and savory with a bit of spicy heat. Here's the recipe:

Grill 4 ears of corn (or use the equivalent of frozen corn) and put the kernels in a bowl. Add 1 ½ tbsp mayo, 1 minced garlic glove, zest and juice of one lime, ¼ cup chopped scallions, ¼ cup crumbled Cojita or Feta cheese, ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro, ¼ tsp chili powder, 1 diced jalapeno and 1 tsp salt. Mix well and serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. 

Cheers to the harvest and to these two fabulous wines for the holidays. Stop by the winery to enjoy a glass of our homage to Beaujolais Nouveau before it's gone and grab a bottle of Lake Erie Riesling to enjoy with your holiday meals!