Last night at Whole Foods I tried to corral the ingredients for my Thanksgiving responsibilities (cornbread-andouille stuffing and two pies, in case you’re interested). There was an enormous display of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, but in plastic bottles. I picked one up and assumed I’d nabbed the fake display bottle, but after a few seconds I realized that this was indeed a green marketing ploy writ large. On the Whole Foods blog, they announced this product packaging with breathless enthusiasm. A string of commenters immediately proceeded to whine about how plastic is doubleplusbad for the environment, despite a lengthy explanation that the point of the plastic bottles was to reduce the shipping weight, and in turn, reduce the carbon footprint of the wine. Or something. I got lost in their righteous indignation.
All of this obscures the real issue: Beaujolais Nouveau sucks. It’s flimsy, watery, wan crap, and it exists only to put a little extra holiday cash into the pockets of wine bars and retailers. In the Whole Foods post, for example, a store employee describes the stuff:
The crazy complex flavors of roasts, game, mushrooms, squash, root vegetables and flavorings such as sage, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, peppers, and the like are perfectly complemented by Nouveau’s grapey flavor and refreshing acidity.
First of all, any one who describes a wine as having a nice “grapey flavor” should immediately be fired, banned, exiled, and slapped repeatedly. “Grapey”? Yeah, I guess this fermented grape juice does taste oddly of grapes. Second, “refreshing acidity” in this context does not mean that the wine has a crisp bite, like, for instance, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It means that it’s so sharp that you’d best swallow it like a shot, without letting any part of it actually touch your taste buds.
That said, I think a lot of wine columnists who write about what wines to pair with Thanksgiving food take the easy way out by uniformly recommending Beaujolais (real Beaujolais, not the Nouveau garbage). A decent Beaujolais Cru is a good workhouse of a wine, and certainly isn’t a bad choice for the Thanksgiving table, but the truth of the matter is that Thanksgiving means a ridiculous array of competing flavors, spices, herbs, and textures—it’s pretty much impossible to pick wines that will complement the whole spread, or even a fraction of it. Luckily, no one cares. Just head blindly into your local wine shop or grocery store and pick up a half-dozen bottles of anything that’s a) red; b) not Zinfandel; and c) doesn’t come in a jug. Like anyone’s going to be talking about your sommelier skills during the Cowboys game.