Beaujolais? No-jolais!

Beaujolais? No-jolais!

As we were sitting – or rather, kneeling – down for dinner at the in-law’s the other day, onii-san arrived back from the shops with a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau.
My rule of thumb for judging the quality of a wine from its label – which I first heard in a comedy routine, but which I have found to be surprisingly reliable – is:

Text only = good wine
Black & white picture + text = fair to middling wine
Colour picture + text = bad wine

And this particular label did not bode well, being a garish mish-mash of fonts and flowers.

The bouquet – if you can call it that – hit my nose like a right hook from Mike Tyson, and even once I had recovered sufficiently to drink the stuff, the taste was akin to that of neat paraffin – indeed, this may have been the first time I have ever wanted to drink red wine with ice.

Onii-san and I had to take a breather after the first couple of sips, and a little later, to be fair, the smell had subsided. The trouble was, rather than dissipating into the surrounding environment, it had become absorbed into the wine itself, giving it a kick like chip shop malt vinegar.

Drinking wine from decent glass can improve the flavour (something I learned from a friend of mine who co-writes the excellent Wine Rambler blog), so perhaps we weren’t doing the Beaujolais justice by using cheap – and not quite spotlessly clean – tumblers. The prime suspect in its lack of quaffability, though, was more likely to be the bottle.

Buying Beaujolais Nouveau at the very second it goes on sale – or within the first few days, at least – has been popular in Japan since the late seventies, with the added incentive that due to the time difference, it is legally available here eight hours earlier than in Western Europe. For this reason, much of it is imported by air rather than by sea, and partly in an effort to counteract the prohibitive costs involved, plastic bottles were introduced in 2009.

While this didn’t go down too well with the producers (who seemed to be conveniently ignoring the fact that cheap table wine in plastic bottles has been available on the continent for years), Japanese consumers appear to be perfectly happy with the arrangement; they even buy white Beaujolais and rosé Beaujolais, which I had always been under the impression were, er, not Beaujolais.

In any case, for the sake of both my taste buds and my sense of smell, from now on I’ll be sticking to text-only wine labels, whatever the bottle they’re stuck to happens to be made from.

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