Thursday at 12:01 a.m. is the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, when celebrants drink the young fruity red like it's 1988.
"Beaujolais Nouveau is more of a celebration of the wine season," said Robert Turk, a retail wine specialist for the Pennsylvania State Liquor Board. "It's a wine from Gamay grapes that doesn't necessarily reflect the terroir of the Beaujolais provence."
Despite celebrations -- "Beaujolais Est Arrive!" George Duboeuf declares every year-- Beaujolais in general and Beaujolais Nouveau in particular suffer from a tarnished reputation.
In "Quality Beaujolais: It's No Oxymoron," Lettie Teague cites it as "the Rodney Dangerfield of France" the result of flaccid product and scandals that played out between 2001 and 2007, during which French wine producers bought sugar to boost alcohol levels, among other practices. This led to decline in sales, the charging of fines and arrests for doctoring wine.
Within the past couple years, the reputation of Beaujolais has been on the mend thanks to Beaujolais Crus, named for one of 10 regions that produce this wine.
"Crus offer better quality," said Mr. Turk. "They'll give you a more substantial wine that conveys a sense of place."
Even a spicy Cru from Julienas in the Beaujolais region will taste quite different from Moulin-a-Vent, an area that produces a full-bodied, oak-aged Beaujolais.
"A Beaujolais is a gem of Burgundy," said Michael Kreha, sommelier and partner at Bar Marco in the Strip. "They have aromas of earth, pepper and spice, not just fruit. They're some of the most delicious wines I can get my hands on in Pennsylvania."
Beaujolais Crus are usually well-priced. "It’s all relative, but if I wanted to seek out the same quality of production in the Côte d’Or I could easily be shucking out hundreds," he said, citing his find of a double bottle of Lapierre Cru Beaujolais for roughly $46 at the Shadyside and Waterworks state stores.
Mr. Tuck cites wines from the Brouilly region as a favorite.
"It is very satisfying," he said. "But that's the difference between a Beaujolais Nouveau and a Crus."
Bar Marco photo