I did an article a few years back describing how nice it was for the French to produce a wine, Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released the third Thursday of November of each year in celebration of our (U.S.A.) Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. Of course, the French did no such thing. But, it would be nice to think that they did. After all, how many times have we (the good ole' U.S.A.) come to their aid? And, yes, I know they helped us defeat the British in our battle for independence. So, before I upset a bunch of Frenchmen, let me get on with how well the Beaujolais Nouveau pairs with our traditional Thanksgiving 🦃 dinner.
Beaujolais Nouveau simply means the new release of the Beaujolais wine. Beaujolais is a wine region in southeastern France between the better known Burgundy and Rhone wine producing regions. Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape, which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. It is produced using the carbonic maceration technique, which we will get to in a minute. It is a young, light fruity wine meant to be consumed immediately, which is okay by me.
A friend of mine was recently traveling and picked up one of those magazines you find in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane. He said that there was an article in the magazine about orange wines, referring to white wines fermented in contact with the skins of the grapes, making a comeback. His question to me was why hadn't I ever mentioned orange wines at any of my educational events (aka wine tastings)? I thought that was a very good question and a topic we could discuss here.
You see, most grapes used in the production of white wine (e.g. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.) have green skins, so when the skins are left in contact with juice, which by the way is clear, during fermentation the wine takes on a dark hue or orangish color, thus why they are called orange wines and not to be confused with wine made from oranges. I explained to him that the process of producing orange wines dates back thousands of years. Probably, around the time someone first discovered you could make wine from grapes.
I can only imagine that person leaving a bunch of grapes in some ancient container and forgetting about them for a couple of weeks; only to come back lift the lid and discover they had fermented and their juice gave forth this incredible intoxicating beverage. Wow! And to think, they also discovered carbonic maceration.
See, I told you we would get back to carbonic maceration. Carbonic maceration is the process of placing whole clusters of grapes in a sealed container, usually a large vat or other suitable vessel, and reducing the oxygen leaving a carbon dioxide rich environment. The weight of the grapes gently crush some of the grapes at the bottom and the natural yeast starts the fermentation process. More carbon dioxide is given off durning fermentation and the grapes, which weren't crushed, start to ferment on the inside. The grapes are then pressed giving us a wine that is low in tannins and fruit forward, as is the case with Beaujolais Nouveau.
My reason for not mentioning orange wines before was that most modern day winemakers have abandoned fermenting white wines in contact with the skins in order to produce a dryer acidic white wine often described as being fresh or clean with a crisp mouthfeel. Since all grape skins contain phenols and tannins, production now days involves moving the juice as quickly as possible away from the skins in order to achieve the desirable results I just mentioned.
I'm certainly not against orange wines, but there are not many winemakers interested in producing orange wines anymore since market demand is just not there and thus my reason for not mentioning the wines. If demand increases, I will make it a point to discuss them at future events.
There is movement in another facet of orange wines and that is white wine made with the addition of orange rinds during fermentation. As you know, people have been producing wines from other fruit besides grapes since time immemorial. So, again nothing new. But, it may become trendy since more and more health professionals are recognizing the health benefits of wines. So, why not bump up your wine with the addition of a little vitamin C?
If you get a chance to sample some orange wine, I encourage you to do so and [click here] to give me your opinion. Or, if you try some vitamin C wine, also [click here] and let me know what you think.
In case you haven't guessed, this month's recommendation is a Beaujolais Nouveau. It is from Georges Duboeuf and you should be able to pick some up from Spec's, HEB, or your local wine shop between the third Thursday of November and Thanksgiving for under $20 (usually under $10). It will pair nicely with the traditional Thanksgiving 🦃 and all its trimmings.
Until next time, Cheers🍷