We always buy a variety of the Beaujolais nouveau wines (and some of the Beaujolais nouveau want-to-be wines) each year. While a bit of a gimmick, it's fun to try them out and pick our own winners. My question is: How long can they keep in a relatively cool basement crawl space? Will they make it to Christmas?
You're under no pressure to drain your nouveau like Keith Moon on a bender – unless you purchased, say, 2,000 bottles.
Beaujolais nouveau is not quite unpasteurized milk. But, as you surmise, it comes with a more abrupt due date than pretty much all other wines. Rushed to market for sale on the third Thursday in November, soon after harvest, the gamay-based red is light, fruity and designed for cheerful glugging. The point is to permit consumers around the world to share vicariously in the harvest ritual. Typically raw and gutsy, it provides a hint of the quality to come in other, less-hurried wines – more "serious" wines that will spend months or years maturing in tank or barrel before being unleashed on the market.
Grapes destined for nouveau tend to come from the less vaunted vineyard sites. In many cases, they lack the flavour and tannin structure to cellar well. I'd say the due-date consensus is about six months to a year (I would err on the side of six months). After that the wine quickly starts to lose its youthful charm, like Justin Bieber after, oh, say, his 17th birthday.
Beppi Crosariol is the co-author, with Lucy Waverman, of The Flavour Principle, a sumptuous new cookbook and drinks compendium, published by HarperCollins.