Wed, 22 Nov 2000

The Lollipop fun wine is here again

By Grace Segran

JAKARTA (JP): The celebration of the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau is a yearly affair, marking the first wine of the season. Beaujolais Nouveau has become fashionable and people all over the world enjoy the hoopla associated with being among the first to taste it.

Beaujolais Nouveau, made from Gamay grapes that were harvested a few weeks earlier, comes from vineyards located in the most southerly of Burgundy's region of France, about 400 kilometers southeast of Paris.

This grape makes light and fruity wines with relatively low alcoholic content, and are served chilled. The Beaujolais Nouveau is marketed as a young, unpretentious wine that is intended to be consumed in copious quantities.

It is made by intensive semicarbonic maceration methods that accelerate fermentation to enable it to be ready to be consumed the world over by the third Thursday of each November. Rapid fermentation gives it the bubble-gum, banana and pear-drop aromas, which is why Beaujolais Nouveau is known in the trade as "Lollipop" wine. It is ideal for anyone who does not actually enjoy the characteristics of real wine. It is a wine that should not be taken seriously, and no producer claims it is a fine wine.

A French friend from my Paris days, Michel Lelieve, used to turn his nose up at the wine come November. He would not touch a drop because, according to him, "it's bad wine; in fact it's not even wine ... !"

Nonetheless the profit generated by Beaujolais Nouveau is considerable. By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region's total annual production, will be distributed and drunk around the world.

Once again, The Regent Jakarta heralded the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau 2000 on Nov. 16, when the wine was brought into the lobby of the hotel by a Porsche, accompanied by two Harley Davidsons. The promotion for the wine is on until Nov. 26, 2000.

During this period, executive chef Kenji Salz will prepare special burgundian-style dishes, while a French buffet will be available for lunch and dinner. Dominique Bodin, a world-renowned accordionist, will also be on hand to commemorate the event.

For old times' sake, we decided to join in the fun this year. So wine and dine we did at the Regent's Steakhouse.

The person who greeted us was dressed merrily in a red French outfit with a black beret. We were rather impressed when he was able to respond to our greetings and thanks in French, setting the mood for the occasion.

The Steakhouse was transformed into a bistro. You could hear the pleasant clatter of cutlery and the muted tones of people in conversation, as the garcons hurried to and fro quietly to the strains of Edith Piaf.

We expected to find a limited menu of regional dishes but there were nine starters, eight main courses and five desserts to choose from! So, naturally, we had executive chef Kenji decide for us.

Burgundy regional cuisine is heavy stuff! There is hardly any fish as the region is so far away from the coast. So go easy if you do not want to feel stuffed before the meal is over.

We started with white bean soup. It was tasty and rich with walnut bits and a dollop of cream. The smoky flavor that came from beef bacon was good. The onion tart was a meal in itself. It was excellent with lots of chopped onions, balanced by the green salad.

The 2000 growing season was said to be ideal from beginning to end, thus giving us a Beaujolais Nouveau that is "robust, typical, well-bred, generous and mouthwatering". However, to us it still tasted raw and crude.

It pairs very well with the cuisine and one tends to wash down the heavy food with it. We remember in France how people would drink so much of this unaged wine that they would have a bad headache the next day.

For our main course we shared roasted baby lamb, duck with black pepper vinegar sauce and veal chops. They were accompanied simply, either by a vinaigrette green salad or buttered French beans and carrots.

The lamb was succulent and tender. The delectable brown sauce was made by reduction from the trimmings of the roast and Beaujolais Nouveau.

For dessert we chose grilled goat cheese and tarte tatin -- both of which were superb.

A delightful French evening, indeed. Thanks for the memories.