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CELEBRATE HOLIDAY IN A NOUVEAU WAY

It's called marketing, and no matter where you happen to be it works.

Even (or maybe especially) when it comes to wine.

My husband and I were in France a couple of Novembers ago when we passed a wine store and immediately had the same thought: we would buy a couple of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau for our hosts at dinner that evening.

But the pleasant proprietor explained he couldn't sell the young wine to us (though I'm pretty sure he had some in the back room). It would, he said, be "against the law" to sell the Nouveau before 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month and that date was at least two weeks away.

The fact that we were practically in sight of the vineyards made no difference. A rule is a rule.

We had known, of course, that the third Thursday regulation has been in existence since 1985. But we'd secretly thought by being in France we'd be able to beat the system.

Interestingly enough, the strict release date, established by the growers themselves, has made the wine more popular.

Like all Beaujolais Nouveau, this year's wine was made from the Gamay grapes that hung from the vines only the September before. It was pressed three days after picking, with little contact with the skins, which makes for a fruity wine with very little tannin.

Nouveau began (at least in France) as a local phenomenon, served in neighborhood cafes and bistros. But the specific release date brought the wine into the world's eye - and into its wine glasses, as well. Now, Nouveau is shipped internationally, supposedly immediately after that critical moment and to great hoopla.

The barrels move to Paris and then on to everywhere else by motorcycle, balloon, truck, Concorde. Signs are posted: "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!"

Beaujolais 2002 came to Western New York by air last Thursday and many restaurants and wine stores celebrated that fact. Later, it will come by ship and the price will drop slightly.

A young fruity wine with beautiful color, it's been described as "charming" and "as close as a red wine can get to white," which makes it a good choice for white wine drinkers learning to appreciate reds as part of their wine education.

The Nouveau doesn't take itself too seriously. It can be enjoyed while more complex and expensive Beaujolais wines are maturing. It will be drinkable until at least May, maybe even longer.

Since the wine celebrates the harvest - "all is safely gathered in" - it's a good choice for this week's big holiday dinner.

Serve the Nouveau cool (at about 55 degrees F.) and - drink. Pontification definitely not required.

Just hoist a glass or two and be thankful.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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