Few wines have as bad of a rep as Beaujolais. Because of the mass-produced marketing scheme known as "Nouveau Beaujolais" most people think of it as cheap, sweet grape juice. The RC Cola of wines, if you will.
The truth is that Beaujolais is a wine region in the southern part of Burgundy, which some would say is the noblest of all wine regions. It is an area where there are artisanal producers making small-production wines from organically grown vineyards. There is good stuff to be found there. Some of it borders on the sublime.
Gamay, the grape that is used in Beaujolais makes lighter, fruitier wines, but they can still have depth and flavor. When Georges Dubeouf gets a hold of them, he makes what he is famous for: innocuous, boring fruit juice. "Nouveau Beaujolais" is wine made from Gamay grapes that have been harvested that fall, crushed through a process known as carbonic maceration and then almost immediately bottled and sent off to stores. There are some decent "Nouveau"s out there but they are really hard to come by and these days they tend to be expensive. Your best bet is to stick with the regular stuff.
Traditional Beaujolais is made just like any
other wine. It is given time to mature and gain some dimension before heading
off to the market place. It is good and can be great, you just have to know
which producers to look for and where to look. Here's a hint: look for Cru
Beaujolais wines from areas like Brouilly, Fleurie or Morgon. Look for producers
like Thivin, Granger or this guy Pierre Chermette.
Beaujolais is one of the best red wines you can serve when the food really calls for white, but everyone wants red. Perhaps most fabulous of all, you can serve it a bit chilled, making it a fantastic red for summertime when a big chewy cab doesn't really tickle your fancy. Due to the fact that Nouveau Beaujolais comes out on the 3rd Thursday of November ever year it has become a traditional Thanksgiving wine, and rightfully so (if you stay away from Dubeouf). Gamay pairs well with turkey, ham and all the fixings involved in our big autumnal feast.
I would say that regular old Beaujolais works even better, having a bit more backbone to stand up to bacon-wrapped deep fried turkey, funyun-and-green bean casserole, and all of the other post modern-traditional dishes we've developed since the time of the pilgrims. This Pierre Chermette Beaujolais is perfect and unfortunately I can't find my notes on it because between the cooking and the eating and all the festivities I seem to have written them somewhere strange and misplaced them. I remember it was awesome and the review was filled with positive expletives and lots of exclamation points. Even one of our guests who doesn't ever drink wine asked for a second glass. It's a perfect example of how good Gamay can be and it's only around $17 a bottle. Buy it and try it for yourself, you will not be disappointed.