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Ditch Beaujolais, Drink Local Wine this November 20

America (Country Appellation)

Ditch Beaujolais,
Drink Local this November 20

by Tyler Colman
November 12, 2008

Editor’s note: APPELLATION AMERICA is pleased to publish occasional contributions from special guest columnists like Tyler Colman, a.k.a. Dr Vino. Tyler’s plea to “Drink Local” seemed a perfect ideological fit with our own mission to promote each of the 300+ distinct wine growing regions of North America. For more healthy prescriptions from the good Doctor, visit DrVino.com where you’ll find good value wine recommendations and a look at the world through the wine glass, bringing in diverse perspectives and lively reader contributions.

This November 20, cases of Beaujolais Nouveau will fall from the sky and land as endcaps in wine shops everywhere. This fall, I encourage you to say NO to the Nouveau – and reach for a local wine instead.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a travesty on at least two levels, one gustatory and one environmental. The grapes for this proto-wine were harvested only three months prior to the airdrop. In some years, they are not ripe enough and need to have their alcohol levels boosted by sugar. And most of the Nouveau is made with carbonic maceration, commercial yeast strains and enzymes to give it a confected taste. Don’t get me wrong: I think Gamay is one of the most food-friendly red grapes and a great value but mostly when it hails from one of the smaller subzones of Beaujolais.

Regulations prohibit the wine from leaving the region more than one week before the arbitrary date of the third Thursday of November, when signs all around the world proclaim triumphantly “le Beajuolais noveau est arrive” (the Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!”)

Air Freight of Wine = Carbon-Bigfoot
The short allowable time between bottling and release sets off a global sprint to transport the wine as far afield as Tokyo, San Francisco and Santiago. This has involved motorcycles, trucks, helicopters, regular jet planes and even, in a previous era, the Concorde!

As my research on the carbon footprint of wine has shown, airfreight is hardly the best way to transport any wine even if it were the best of the best since it takes so much fuel to keep a plane aloft. Thus a bottle of Georges Duboeuf flown to New York has four times the carbon footprint than if it were sent by ship…to San Francisco, which is about eight times the distance.

It's worth noting that this year's Nouveau campaign will have a reduced carbon footprint and credit must go where credit is due: George W. Bush and Jean-Charles Boisset. The policies of the Bush Administration plunged the dollar to a rate of 1.60 to the euro and drove oil to over $100/barrel when the management at Georges Duboeuf had to price the wine this summer (the dollar has rallied and the oil price has fallen since then). This led them to convince French authorities to move the date up for the wine leaving the European Union, allowing for container shipping, which would save $2 per bottle on the wine in a store according to the Duboeuf North American export director. Coincidentally, container shipping also has a lower carbon footprint. However, the ships cannot reach everywhere so quickly: There will still be over one million cases of Nouveau sent around the world via air freight this year.

French negociant Jean-Charles Boisset has made a more determined effort to reduce the carbon footprint of his Nouveau and will be bottling in ultralight plastic bottles this year for the first time. By reducing the packaging mass, the carbon dioxide emissions per ounce of wine falls since the load is either lighter or has more wine and less packaging.

Drink Local Wine This November.
In the interest of reducing your carbon-footprint (and doing your part to save the polar bears)…Drink Local.
While I urge you to say no to Nouveau this year, the idea of a global wine celebration on the third Thursday of November is too appealing to ignore! So let’s ride on the coattails (jetstream?) of this global wine celebration but raise a glass of local wine instead. Wine is now grown in all 50 states and many of us who don’t live on the West Coast often overlook our local producers. And we shouldn’t, as many of these regional wines are likely to go well with our Thanksgiving repast should you choose to extend this line of thinking by a week.

So say no to Nouveau and join me in raising a glass of local wine this November 20! Do it for the polar bears…and your local vintner.
Drink Local Wine T-shirts
Drink Local T-Shirts are available from Dr. Vino’s Shirt Shack

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