In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Food Wednesdays: Il arrive! Beaujolais Nouveau.

Written by Donna Marie Desfor, Culinary Consultant and Chef | Nov 15, 2011 2:55 PM

Wine. Thinking about it conjures up all sorts of ideas, good and bad.  Hopelessy romantic, I tend to err on the side of good.  I dream of all things elegant and passion-filled – the fervor of a winemaker striving to draw out the very best that a vineyard offers. Or, I’ll remember a recent wine dinner to celebrate the release of a new vintage elevates my thoughts to artisinal foods and a room energized with an ambiance of seriousness... of expectation… of a desire to understand the relationship between the wine and the winemaker. Well, except for five days in November.

At one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, just weeks after the wine’s grapes have been harvested, from little villages and towns in Beaujolais, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world… or so the story goes. Today, these wines are available literally within hours of the first bottles being opened in that fabled French town, Beaujolais. And, with that, the frivolity and spirited rituals that accompany the arrival of this wine begin around the world.

Last year, on the last night of the traditional five days of celebration, I met with friends to break open our bottles and once again welcome this lighthearted tradition. Banging on tambourines and shaking noisemakers, from the front porch we shouted "Il arrive Nouveau!"  We giggled like children fully embracing how truly fun a new release could be.  After, we retreated to the kitchen where we prepared a simple but delicious meal. Starting with Camembert – because it’s French, of course, we smothered it with brown sugar, butter and slivered almonds. Alongside that we served red grapes (naturally), and a round of French (what else?) country bread. A salad of mixed green and a honey Dijon (Dijon a small region in France) vinaigrette, and a Mediterranean styled chicken that was colorful and aromatic with the fresh oregano and basil from my friend's garden. 

Beaujolais Nouveau is not meant to be a serious, mature or complex wine. It is fresh, simple, and bouncy. It is easy to serve and easy to drink, and it can certainly set the mood for an easy relaxed dinner. The Nouveaus pair nicely with most foods – cheese and bread, roasted meat or poultry (think turkey!), and eggs (the French serve it with omelets). It’s an unassuming kind of celebration unto itself.  We chilled our bottles of Georges Duboeuf down, since a slight chill is said to enhance the berry flavors of the wine, especially one so young and intended to be drunk within weeks of its release. 

The Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be consumed within weeks of the harvest, but with careful cellaring, it is said to be drinkable into April or May. But why wait?  Thanksgiving and the official start of the holidays is, well, literally arriving to our doorstep.  This is exactly the time to open something that is all about fun.  Welcome the Nouveaus and welcome the gaiety of the season.

This year the Nouveau is fruity with silky tannins, with an outstanding long finish with touches of cherry – for a Nouveau, that is. With 70 million bottles about to be circulated, prices can be very friendly, as low as $6.99.  And, though the tradition of racing the grape from the vineyard to the glass may not be quite the serious winemaking we attribute to the French, it is fun to be a part of a celebration that is taking place in homes, cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars around the world.

Whether you would actually rate Beaujolais Nouveau vintages is up to you.  When you consider they’re not meant to be cellared, I reserve my rating for whether they are pleasing enough to serve over and again throughout my holiday meals.  And, after a couple of bottles (it’s easy to open another at the very affordable price) I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is a food friendly, holiday friendly wine. But, then again, when you’re having this much fun, who’s got time to disagree?

The Beaujolais Nouveaus will arrive to the Pennsylvania State Liquor Board Controlled stores on Thursday, November 17th.

Recipe: Cranberry Apple Tart Tea Sangria
Makes about 6 cups

To make this delicious sangria, choose a rose, a zinfandel, or a wonderfully affordable Beaujolais Nouveau.  The Beaujolais Nouveaus are released the third Thursday of November each year, perfect for this recipe and your Thanksgiving table!

2 tablespoons Cranberry- or Apple-based loose tea*
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 750-ml bottle fruity red wine (try Beaujolais Nouveau!)
½ cup brandy (optional)
About 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Cinnamon sticks, orange slices, apple slices, lemon slices or cranberries on a swizzle stick, to garnish (optional)

*For this recipe I chose The Spice and Tea Exchange Cranberry Apple Tart Tea because it’s all natural made with cranberries, apples and hibiscus leaves.  A 4-ounce package makes enough for at least 2 pitchers!

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a microwave safe bowl.  Add the loose tea and steep for about 5 to 10 minutes for an intensely flavored and colored tea.  Optional, strain the tea from the liquid and let cool.  If using the recommended Cranberry Apple Tart Tea there’s no need to strain the tea.

Fill a large pitcher with ice and add the tea.  Add in the wine, brandy (if using) and orange juice.  Stir and add in fruit slices.  Serve well chilled with additional garnishes. 

Chef’s note:  To serve as a “mulled” wine, simply heat the finished mixture in a large saucepan.

*For this recipe I chose The Spice and Tea Exchange Cranberry Apple Tart Tea because it’s all natural made with cranberries, apples and hibiscus leaves.  A 4-ounce package makes a pitcher of sangria, 8 toddys(check back tomorrow for that recipe!) , with enough left over for you to enjoy in a cup or two. 

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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