by Dave Williams
I would bet most of us are familiar with “new wine” because of George DeBoeuf and Beaujolais Nouveau which appears annually on the third Thursday of November. George certainly did a marvelous job as a promoter or extraordinary marketer. To the point where it has become cause for grand, and some say crazy, celebrations; and certainly increased revenue for wineries and retailers across the globe regardless of whether one likes Beaujolais Nouveau or not. In Japan one such ritual is for the consumers to bathe in giant pools of the stuff. Makes one wonder if they drink their way out of the pool. While George may have latched on to a wildly successful marketing ploy, he certainly has no claim of exclusivity or originality, as new wine has been made in the Old World for hundreds of years.
As far back as Medieval times wine makers traditionally first tasted their “new wines” around St. Martin’s Day (November 11). In Eastern Europe the Czeck Republic and Hungary also have such celebrations around wines called Svatomartinske’ Vino and Marton bora or wine of St. Martin, respectively. Not all are made via carbonic maceration, though most are. (Carbonic maceration is when harvested grapes are fermented in closed vats bathed in carbon dioxide prior to crushing, producing simple wines with low levels of tannins. These wines are quickly bottled and consumed with no intent for longevity.) In fact, the Czech Republic has quality standards for Svatomartinske’ which undergoes evaluation by the state wine making institute. In Hungary, Marton bora is strongly connected to goose dishes with goose feasts occurring throughout the country upon release.
All so called, “new wines” are produced from early harvested grape varieties. Gamay being the most well-known. However, in Central Europe Muller-Thurgau, Fruhroter Veltliner and Muskat Moravsky used to make white as well as rosé “new wines”. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your opinion of these wines, most are unknown outside the local areas they are made. For example, the Gaillac appellation in Southwest France makes Gaillac Primeur and releases it on the same day as Beaujolais Nouveau. I would bet you have never heard of this new wine, let alone tasted it. “New wines” also appear in Austria, Italy and Spain during fall in the year of harvest although few if any are imported to the US. Released on October 30, Italy’s “vino novello” is probably the only one likely to find its’ way Stateside.
In summary, “new wines” bring energy and some excitement to the wine world. Celebrations occur after release for a few weeks then all is quickly forgotten, very ephemeral.