You Can't Teach a New Wine Old Tricks

You’ve got to hand it to the French. They have managed to turn what is traditionally a completely unimportant thing – the shipping of the season’s first Beaujolais Nouveau – into an “event.”

Beaujolais Nouveau is a cheap French wine that is meant to be drunk young. It is, along with straw-bottle Chianti, the definition of cheap wine. It’s a good wine to have around, because even if you’re not in the mood to drink Beaujolais Nouveau, you can usually put it to other uses, such as helping flush small items down your garbage disposal, or to bathe the cat in, or to degrease a bike chain.

I want to be crystal clear: there is nothing, nothing wrong with cheap wine. Cheap wine is good. I mock Beaujolais Nouveau because I love it. Or, loved it. Now because the start of the “season” is an “event,” we live in a world where a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau costs more than $10. This, more than anything else, is a sign that the world we live in has gone utterly, completely, barking mad. The worst thing about this, of course, is having the conversation with my wine merchant about this. “$12? For Beaujolais Nouveau?” “Oh, yes, sir. It’s very good. This is going to fly off the shelves.” “It’s Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s best used to rinse your teeth after brushing.” “Well, it’s very popular this year, sir.”

To be fair, and to show that for once I am not just picking on the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board like I usually do, I will mention that this first batch (the “air shipment”) is priced extravagantly pretty much everywhere. If your state allows in-state shipping, you can save a few dollars by buying at a large wholesaler, such as Sam’s, or by using my personal favorite mail-order wine store, Pop’s Wine.

Despite my disbelief over the price, I took one for the team and bought a bottle of the 2005 George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. For $12 a bottle. Damn it to hell.

My capsule review is: that was $12 I will never see again. If there is any justice in the world, you will all feel sorry for me and click madly on the sponsored Google Links to try to help me recover at least some of that money. And also to compensate me for my pain and suffering.

The pain and suffering is not because the wine itself is somehow inherently terrible – it’s really neither better nor worse than your average Beaujolais Nouveau – but for the opportunity cost that spending $12 on a bottle of this grape juice engenders. $12 will get you a fine cheap Rosemount Shiraz. Or a low-end Ruffino Chianti. Or three bottles of Charles Shaw, a.k.a. “Two Buck Chuck”. All of which are better than this wine.

The color is the grape-juicey purple one expects from a wine of this type. The aroma is fruity and seems extremely tannic. On hitting your tongue, though, those fruit and tannins aren’t actually there. You don’t taste either. What you taste, instead, is just an in-your-face – and unpleasant – acidity. The wine is slightly effervescent, which is fine, but somewhat attenuated and chemical, which is not. There’s no finish to the wine at all. I don’t mean a “quick finish” or a “short tail,” I mean none whatsoever. The wine gets to the back of your mouth and sort of teleports down to your stomach, leaving you wondering what the hell just happened.

So it’s not a very pleasant wine to drink by itself, but then to make up for that, it doesn’t match well with food either.

If this wine cost 5 dollars a bottle, you would shrug your shoulders and say “Hey. It’s cheap wine. Whaddya want? Pour me another glass.” But it didn’t cost 5 dollars a bottle. It cost more than a number of perfectly drinky varietals. The wine doesn’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth – it doesn’t leave any taste in your mouth – but this knowledge does.

Did I mention you could buy 3 (or more, if you’re lucky) bottles of Two Buck Chuck for the price of one bottle of 2005 George Duboeuf “air shipment” Beaujolais Nouveau? I’m just checking.

To add injury to insult, the wine left me with a hangover that made me feel like Robert Downey Jr. on his first day of rehab. I had another glass tonight because, apparently, I hate life, and the headache is back. Perhaps it is just my conscience, causing me psychic pain because I paid $12 for a $5 bottle of a wine.

In conclusion, don’t buy this wine. Unless you are someone that I despise, in which case, ‡ votre santÈ! Buy an entire case!