The city’s French eateries prepare to party.
Published: November 16, 2011 (Issue # 1683)
Wine connoisseurs have reason to rejoice this month: From Nov. 17, St. Petersburg will follow France’s lead and mark the Beaujolais Nouveau festival, which celebrates the ripening of the first young wine and has recently become a gastronomic guilty pleasure among Petersburgers.
The tradition of celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau began in the 19th century among viniculturists of the Beaujolais region. Their wine was the first to be ready. Beaujolais has a light aroma and flavor that differs every year depending on the crop and weather conditions.
Beaujolais’ complex flavor is rooted in the peculiarities of the soil where the Game grape, a black-grade grape with white juice, grows. In order to maintain the fresh, fragrant taste of young wine with its bright fruity tones, there is a maceration process of four to five days. This helps to maximize the presence of fruit aromas, without the wine becoming tart. During manufacturing, the young wine is fermented, making the wine softer. As with the majority of wines, the second fermentation allows Beaujolais Nouveau to reach stability within a month after harvesting. At this stage, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Village are bottled and the celebration begins.
During the past few years, the Beaujolais Nouveau festival has become popular in Russia, first taking place in 1999 in Moscow. In St. Petersburg, the festival will be celebrated at the city’s French restaurants and bistros.
While France’s celebrated “best jug” and “golden bottle” competitions will not be held in St. Petersburg, participants are invited to sample a special Beaujolais menu and enjoy the strains of traditional French chanson.
Beaujolais restaurant at 29 Bolshaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa is celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau festival for the first time and has been successful in creating an authentic French atmosphere thanks to French chef Serge Fery, who has prepared a special menu for the occasion.
“The young Beaujolais at Beaujolais restaurant will be complemented by its loyal companions: Coq au vin, snails in garlic sauce, ox tails, traditional cheeses and smoked foods, finishing with pear in red wine dessert,” said the chef.
“During the Beaujolais Nouveau festival, live accordion music will be played every night, helping to create a completely French atmosphere,” said Yelena Yanb, the restaurant’s owner. The restaurant is offering a special Beaujolais dinner for two people — including half a bottle of wine — priced at 2,000 rubles ($66), and recommends booking a table in advance.
Kukhnya, another authentic French bistro located at 77 Fontanka Naberezhnaya, will also offer a special Beaujolais menu featuring tuna tartare with strawberry, coquilles Saint-Jacques, sea bass in a Martini sauce and pineapple Carpaccio with lime sorbet for dessert.
For the opening of the new wine season, Vinograd Café at 47 Marata Ulitsa will attempt to transport its guests to France with the romantic sounds of chanson by Manouche and a special menu created by chef Martin Delfim, who combines the traditions of Portuguese cuisine with the fruity notes of young French wine in a Lisbon-style fish soup, Catalan fish stew, lamb with feta cheese and Provence-style veal in a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce.
At the pricier end of the local dining scene, the Taleon Imperial Hotel will be offering an exclusive dinner menu from chef Igor Ivanugin.
“Normally we serve dishes made from products typical of the Beaujolais region as well as for France,” he said. “The most important thing is that the food should be nourishing, nutritious and very simple — something that could be found on any rural table in France.”
During the Beaujolais festival, Taleon is offering homemade sausages, game dishes, onion pie, stewed eggplant, veal pate and various soft cheeses. A rural-style dinner will cost 4,100 rubles ($135) per person for a four-course meal and 1,500 rubles ($50) for a bottle of wine.
The flavor of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau is still a mystery that will soon be revealed. A young wine’s worst enemy is time, so don’t waste a second — try it on Thursday evening at a restaurant, or simply buy a bottle of Beaujolais to enjoy with friends over a home-cooked meal.