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The Cork Heard Around the World

Written by Jennifer Jordan
Filed Under: French Wine

The sound of a cork popping off a bottle of wine is a welcoming sound; the subtle popping noise is enough to turn wine lovers into Pavlov's dog, drooling uncontrollably. As welcoming a sound this may be, it can often only be heard by those within an earshot. This is unless you are uncorking a Beaujolais nouveau. When this bottle is opened, it is the cork heard around the world.

The Beaujolais nouveau is a French wine that comes out but once a year, making it something that wine drinkers look forward to on an annual basis. Shoppers have the annual sale at Macy's, football fans have the Super bowl, hypochondriacs have their yearly physical, and wine lovers have the third Thursday in November. On this day, Beaujolais nouveau is released into the open arms and open mouths of connoisseurs.

At 12:01 on November's third Thursday, Beaujolais nouveau is sent all around the world. As mandated by French law, it cannot be released a second sooner: bottles that come out too soon may find themselves being opened not with a corkscrew but with a guillotine.

The thing that makes Beaujolais nouveau stand out among other wines is the fact that it is a wine immediately sold after fermentation. Following pasteurization, Beaujolais nouveau is made in a way that foregoes malolactic fermentation, a process in winemaking where tart acid is converted into softer acid. This allows the grapes to be harvested and drank a short six weeks later.

While most wines are made to age, sitting in cellars for years or decades at a time, tapping their fingers and glancing at their watch, Beaujolais nouveau must be consumed within a few months. A wine not known for its patience, Beaujolais nouveau is ready to go as soon as it's made: just add taste buds.

Many wine experts agree that Beaujolais nouveau has an immature taste to it, like a wine that sours when it doesn't get its way. This immaturity gives the Beaujolais nouveau a taste similar to grape juice: it's light, fruit filled, and extremely easy to drink. Since these types of wine are produced by whole berry fermentation, they contain very little, if any, tannin. This leaves the wine with a less acidic taste than many red wines. You can call Beaujolais nouveau immature, but you can not call it bitter.

Breaking the general rule of red wine, younger Beaujolais nouveau is best served chilled. This is because the coldness allows the inane fruity flavors to become more obvious and the ice allows the drink to become more refreshing. Beaujolais nouveau that is fuller, however, is best served at room temperature.

The Gamay noir a Jus Blanc grape has the distinct honor of being the envy of the vineyard, the only grape allowed to be used in making Beaujolais nouveau. These grapes are chosen and picked by hand, making Beaujolais Nouveau a wine that is about as homemade as they come.

Approximately 50 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are produced a year. This number makes Beaujolais nouveau the third most popular wine produced in the Beaujolais region of France. Half of this wine is kept for the French while the other half is sent all across the world. The wine kept in France is usually used as a celebration of the season's end; as winemakers who have labored hardily for months and months are allowed to lift up a glass and put up their feet, enjoying the moment of work well done. The wine that is exported is used for a variety of different things. In America, Beaujolais nouveau is commonly served at Thanksgiving, giving wine lovers something for which they can truly be thankful.

Beaujolais nouveau is an annual treat. Coming out only once a year, if it sees your shadow - approaching it in a liquor store - there is sure to be at least six weeks of enjoyment left. It is an experience worth drinking up, particularly during the holidays.