August 29, 2007 / 2:08 PM / 12 years ago

Beaujolais Nouveau wine ages gracefully

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Beaujolais Nouveau wine will be older this year - if only by a handful of days.

Wine bottles in the tasting room at the Arnaldo-Caprai vineyard in the virtual world Second Life May 16, 2007. The harvest of grapes used to produce Beaujolais Nouveau wine - served up traditionally from the third Thursday of November - started in earnest last weekend, two weeks earlier than normal. REUTERS/Suzanne Miller

The harvest of grapes used to produce the fruity wine served up traditionally from the third Thursday of November started in earnest last weekend - two weeks earlier than normal.

“It’s the fifth time in my life that we have seen such a phenomenon. It’s a bit exceptional,” said Georges Duboeuf, head of one of the Burgundy region’s biggest vineyards. He said the previous years were 1947, 1976, 2000 and 2003.

“Globally, if you look at the 1970s and 1990s, we would harvest on average by September 20, before it was more often end-September or the beginning of October. Between 1995 and 2000 it was around September 15 and now, since 2000, it’s between September 2 and 15,” he said.

“It’s clear the trend in the last 50 years is to earlier and earlier harvests.”

He said, however, he did not expect any change to the official marketing date of the third Thursday in November - which this year happens to fall on November 15, the historic date for the start of Beaujolais sales.

The extra few days the wine spends in its vats won’t make much difference to its taste, he said.

“For Beaujolais Nouveau, like many wines, if it’s good at the start, it will be good at the end. It’s not because the harvest is earlier that the wine will be more rounded or structured, or the taste will be different,” he said.

“Each vintage has its own characteristics,” he said, adding the first indications for 2007 were for a fruity wine, albeit without the body of 2005, an exceptional year for French wines.

Whereas most Beaujolais Nouveau used to be exported to Britain - with races staged to get the first crates to London - it is now shipped by air all over the world, with Japan the biggest market, according to French trade office Ubifrance.

Beaujolais Nouveau accounts for almost 90 percent of the 102,000 hectoliters of Beaujolais wines drunk in Japan each year. In contrast, the share in U.S. consumption is 33 percent.

“For three or four years Japan has been the most important and promising market,” said Duboeuf, who will export his wines this year to some 120 countries.

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