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Restaurants uncork Beaujolais specials

New vintage debuts Wednesday night

This year’s Beaujolais Nouveau will be unleashed on the world Wednesday evening at midnight, and restaurants across the country are making use of the promotional event to throw special dinners.

Beaujolais Nouveau is the marketing name for vin de l’année, or annual wine, which has traditionally been made in the Beaujolais region to celebrate the grape harvest, according to the company Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. It’s an inexpensive, low-tannin wine meant to be drunk quickly and easily.

Starting in the 1950s, area wine producers saw the marketing opportunity for their legally mandated release date — which used to be Nov. 15 but was changed to the third Thursday in November to allow for weekend-long celebrations — and turned it into an event. By the 1980s, midnight cork-poppings were being celebrated across the globe.

Now, according to Duboeuf, about one third of the region’s entire grape crop is made into Beaujolais Nouveaux and more than 35 million bottles of it are expected to be drunk over the next few months.

Although some restaurants, such as Vertigo Sky Lounge at the Dana Hotel in Chicago, will start their celebrations Wednesday with an after-midnight uncorking ceremony, most are holding off until the next day.

Bistrot La Minette in Philadelphia is celebrating Thursday with a $50 four-course menu featuring Beaujolais Nouveau, paired with red wine poached eggs, for the first course, followed by two more conventional Beaujolais wines to pair with pan-roasted cod followed by boeuf bourguignon. Dessert will be a red wine-glazed apple tarte.

Maximilien restaurant in Seattle is offering a $35 three-course menu with such options as winter squash bisque, beef cheek bourguignon and, for dessert, tarte tatin. A Beaujolais Nouveau wine sampler will be offered as well.

BLT Steak’s Charlotte, N.C., location is offering a special Beaujolais Nouveau-friendly menu through Nov. 23, with items such as Prince Edward Island mussels with tomatoes and garlic, and thyme-basted venison with Brussels sprout leaves, beets and dried cherry marmalade.

Georges Duboeuf said the 2010 vintage is almost as good as last year’s, which he called “the vintage of my lifetime.”

Many wine critics praised last year’s vintage of Beaujolais overall.

In his harvest report for this year, Duboeuf called the 2010 wine the best of the “0’s,” which is to say the best of the years ending in “0,” including 2000. Light rains in September resulted in plump, juicy Gamay grapes with a sweet cherry taste, he said.

The bottles retail for about $10.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].

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