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Proof that old age has its benefits

By Richard at Great Grog

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Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais Nouveau.

When I started in the wine trade many decades ago there was a fashion called Beaujolais Nouveau.

Never one to be swayed by fashion, it was always something I was a bit cynical about. It was an innovative marketing ploy to get consumers to drink the newly harvested wines from Beaujolais, in the southern area of Burgundy.

The Beaujolais producers had been making a fruity, light style of wine for many years and it was deemed that these red wines were suited to early drinking and required no cellaring. A great idea for producers cash flow (think gin and whisky producers).

Beaujolais Nouveau is made by a winemaking method called carbonic maceration. This is a rapid way of fermenting red grapes without initially crushing them under a blanket of carbon monoxide. It is so rapid that when the wine finishes fermenting it has very little tannin and much less colour soaks out of the skins. It results in very pale red wines with lots of fresh, consumer-friendly fruit flavour.

Back in the day (1960s) when Britain was a fledgling wine drinking country, merchants cast their eyes over the Channel and saw that whoever got their brand new Beaujolais wines to Paris quickest, profited on being first to market.

This infectious enthusiasm for brand new wine (and profit) was taken up by the London wine merchants too. Hence Beaujolais Nouveau was born in the UK.

The only problem with this marketing wheeze was that the wines weren’t really very good.

Even though the wines were fruity, they were basically pretty rough, and eventually the emperor’s new clothes were deemed to be invisible. It didn’t matter how much you dressed up this brand new wine, it was still brand new.

When I was working for Oddbins in Edinburgh a number of years ago, I discovered a bottle of very old Beaujolais Nouveau at the back of the cellar which had been long forgotten (Beaujolais Vieux?).

It was with trepidation that we pulled out the crumbly cork. What a revelation, it was great.

It made me wonder why on earth people had drunk all that young wine when it turned into something beautiful in old age.

Richard Meadows worked with a national wine chain for 10 years before setting up his own company in Edinburgh in 1999. Richard, a regular visitor to the Highlands, now employs 15 people and sells all over the UK via mail order and the internet as Great Grog.

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