Beaujolais Nouveau is Here, But So Are the Tariffs | Wine Enthusiast
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Beaujolais Nouveau is Here, But So Are the Tariffs

The 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau is on sale today. While they’re still celebratory party wines, new American tariffs on French imports have dampened the fun and decreased the number of bottles wine lovers are likely to find in shops.

Though the 2019 Beaujolais harvest was down by 25%, the grapes were of high quality and fully picked in early October. The Gamay grapes that produce Beaujolais Nouveau were harvested in mid-September, which gave producers eight weeks to make the wine, bottle it and ship to the U.S.

Overall, Beaujolais wines from the 2019 vintage, nouveau included, have more structure and tannins than usual. At the same time, there’s plenty of the open fruitiness that makes Beaujolais Nouveau a go-to Thanksgiving wine.

Philippe Thillardon, president of the Oedoria cooperative near Villefranche-sur-Saône, describes the wines as “fruity and very refreshing.” And the nouveau wines are ready to drink right now — provided you can get your hands on one.

How the tariffs will affect Beaujolais Nouveau

Beaujolais Nouveau is the first vintage released post-tariffs.

After a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling allowed its implementation, the U.S. began to impose a 25% tariff on wines from France, Germany, Spain and Great Britain on October 18, among other European products. The tariff is placed on bottled still wines less than 14.1% alcohol by volume (abv). Typically, nouveau have 13–13.5% abv.

Some importers canceled or trimmed orders after the WTO announced its decision. However, many shipments were already in transit when the tariff went into effect. U.S. Customs won’t release the wine until the tariff is paid by the importer.

Louis Latour Inc. is the importer of Latour-owned Henry Fessy Beaujolais. Christine Lauchenauer, the group’s national accounts manager, says that importers canceled half the usual allocation.

“We have kept some key accounts, such as Wegmans food stores [in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions], but California and Midwest distributors have canceled,” says Lauchenauer. “Luckily, the cancelations were made before the wine was bottled and labeled, so Henry Fessy will be able to send the wine to other markets.”

In some cases, producers and importers will bear the tariff costs.

That’s the case at Dreyfus, Ashby & Co. The New York City importer handles Joseph Drouhin Burgundy and Beaujolais wines. Its president, John Caruso, says that “the extra costs of the 250 cases of Nouveau we import will be absorbed by us and Maison Drouhin.”

Caruso says they plan to maintain pre-tariff prices throughout the portfolio until the end of the year.

“We will try to maintain shelf pricing after that,” he says. But for wines from many smaller producers, retail prices will likely rise.

Denis Kreps, co-owner of Quintessential Wines in Napa, California, says his company has imported 100,000 cases of Georges Duboeuf Nouveau this year. No existing orders were canceled, but the tariff increase has “taken a couple of years off my life,” says Kreps.

Duboeuf and Quintessential agreed to each pay one-third of the tariff hike, with wholesalers covering the rest. But Kreps predicted that after the new year, when he plans to release the cru Beaujolais from 2018, there could be price increases.

If wine is drama, there may be more to come. The WTO reviews tariffs 120 days after they go into effect, and the Trump administration could propose tariff reductions, increases or product changes, all of which could affect retail prices.

Legislative drama notwithstanding, Beaujolais Nouveau fans are eager to celebrate this year’s release. Duboeuf will hold the biggest U.S. party in Houston. Duboeuf’s owner, Franck Duboeuf, and his wife, Anne, will unveil the 2019 nouveau label, designed by Texas native Laura Runge. Winner of this year’s Georges Duboeuf Artist Label Competition, she beat 700 contestants with her design, “Joyous Crush.”

Other parties around the country include Washington D.C.’s Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. The wine shop will offer a special tasting evening of nouveau and cru Beaujolais wines. Elyse Genderson, vice president of Schneider’s, says the price of its nouveau will be $12.99.

While sales are recorded, questions remain of where the wine and the nouveau business will be 12 months from now. “We are hoping only this year is impacted,” says Lauchenauer. “We will have to wait and see.”

The 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau Wines

Antonin Rodet 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $14. This producer has made a juicy, banana and ripe red-fruit flavored wine. The light texture is typical of this vintage’s nouveau wines, giving some weight to the fruit driven palate. Drink now. Baron Francois Ltd.

Antonin Rodet 2019 Nouveau Rosé (Beaujolais); $14. Bright and fruity with strawberry jelly flavors and crisp acidity, this wine is lightly perfumed. It is a soft nouveau rosé with a candy shop character. Eagle Eye Brands.

Bouchard Aîné et Fils 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $14. This Beaune negociant house has made a ripe style of nouveau. The juicy nature of the fruit and the tannins combine to create a food-friendly wine. Fruitiness rules the finish leaning on red berry flavors at the end. Drink now. Drink now. Boisset Collection.

Château d’Ouilly 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $15. This structured wine is hand-picked from an estate managed by the Georges Duboeuf team. The ripe red-berry fruits are from young vines that are soon to be certified organic. With a firm grip of tannins on the palate, it should be enjoyed alongside food rather than alone. Quintessential Wines.

Domaine des 3 Vallons 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais-Villages); $15. This wine is from one of the properties managed by Georges Duboeuf. It is smoky and spicy in nature, balanced by bright red fruits and plenty of fresh acidity. Quintessential Wines.

Georges Duboeuf 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $13. This wine offers a mild depth of ripe cherry fruit supported by firm tannins. A hint of banana pops up, which is typical of nouveau. Quintessential Wines.

Georges Duboeuf 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais-Villages); $15. This is structured wine that shows a grip of tannins and bright acidity balanced by plenty of succulent red fruits and a hint of smoke. It could age a few months but is obviously quite delicious now. Quintessential Wines.

Georges Duboeuf 2019 Nouveau Rosé (Beaujolais); $13. This soft wine is smoothly textured with red berry flavors and some spice. The strawberry fruits give it an open aftertaste. Quintessential Wines.

Henry Fessy 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $14. The typical banana flavors of young Beaujolais show here. It offers a mild concentrated of flavor to yield an attractive and fruity wine to drink now. Louis Latour Inc.

Henry Fessy 2019 Nouveau Rosé (Beaujolais); $14. Soft, rounded and fruity, this wine has an open feel in the mouth. Its bright acidity makes a pleasing contrast to this softness. Louis Latour Inc.

Henry Fessy 2019 Nouveau (Beaujolais-Villages); $15. This wine has a good mix of firm tannins and ripe black fruits. Together they produce a food-friendly, spicy wine that is ready to drink. Louis Latour Inc.

Henry Fessy 2019 Nouveau Flower Label (Beaujolais); $14. This wine offers richness in attractive red berry fruit flavors. There is a fine juicy character to the light-bodied palate. Louis Latour Inc.

Henry Fessy 2019 Nouveau Vieilles Vignes (Beaujolais-Villages); $15. While this is a young, fruity wine made to drink now, it does display a decent amount of structure and concentration that could help it last through early 2020. It is bright in berry fruit intensity, with fresh acidity to match. Louis Latour Inc.

Joseph Drouhin 2019 Nouveau Primeur (Beaujolais); $14. This is a ripe, fruity wine that is full of blackberry fruits and ripe tannins. Acidity and structure go hand-in-hand, producing a wine that will be better with food. Drink now. Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.

Mommessin 2019 Les Conscrits Classe 9 Nouveau (Beaujolais); $14. Named after an annual festival celebrating Beaujolais, this wine is structured and carries some weight on the palate. It’s concentration contrasts with the bubbly red fruit typical of nouveau wine. Drink now. Boisset Collection.

Vignerons de Bel Air 2019 Nouveau Cuvée Bistrot (Beaujolais); $13. This is a ripe, fruity wine from the vineyards of a co-op that offers a sense of shape and richness. A hint of tannins as well as banana and red berry flavors give a wine that hangs together well and is ready to drink. Cuvée Imports.

Vignerons de Bel Air 2019 Nouveau Cuvée Natural (Beaujolais-Villages); $14. Red fruits shine in this fruity wine from generations of families who first came together as a co-op in 1929. The gentle tannins are easily absorbed by the fresh berry flavors and bright acidity. Cuvée Imports.

Vignerons de Bel Air 2019 Nouveau Rosé (Beaujolais); $14. This wine from this co-op of 250 producers is rounded, fruity and crisp. It is refreshing and shows
plenty of red currant flavors. Drink now. Cuvée Imports.