I have a sinking feeling that this column will be utterly beside the point, irritating, water under the bridge, humorless. There is no bigger trap for a wine writer with something to prove than today’s subject. Yet I’m going to write about Beaujolais Nouveau anyway. And I’m going to disobey the advice a colleague gave me when I first started writing professionally, which was never to slam particular wines and just write about the good ones.

Beaujolais Nouveau is wine made in Beaujolais, just south of Burgundy. Like all Beaujolais, the grape is gamay. Unlike most wine, it is released just a few weeks after its brief fermentation. The wine is made quickly and cheaply, using carbonic maceration and specifically cultured yeasts to de-emphasize any tannins or rough spots and instead produce a fruity, cheery wine meant to drink young.

Nouveau’s agricultural heritage is real, and good. The exploitation of that heritage to produce a frenzied international cash-cow phenomenon is not.

Maybe you’ve already tasted the current vintage of Nouveau, since the official release date – the third Thursday in November – was last week. If so, it was probably the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, since Duboeuf is the P.T. Barnum of Beaujolais, largely responsible for bringing the Nouveau phenomenon into public consciousness.

If that was fun, then great, that was fun. But I am imploring you not to buy That Wine for your Thanksgiving feast. This holiday is a celebration of the harvest and familial conviviality. It is pure and it is simple, or it at least has the potential for such. Beaujolais Nouveau, as it has come to be produced, does not have that potential. It is a fake.

Two years ago I wrote about Beaujolais Nouveau, pleasantly enough, with an “it is what it is” perspective. Now I’m in a different mood. I have less patience for mediocrity that comes wrapped in the shiny cellophane of well-paid promotion executives. Mediocrity on the cheap is rather harmless and honest. Well-funded mediocrity lures the cattle into the pen. You end up not only duped into drinking a crappy bottle of wine, but duped into liking being duped. The wine will be forgotten; the manipulation will not.

At a recent tasting that focused on wines alternately labeled “natural,” “low-intervention” or “minimalist,” a man who was enjoying the lineup told me how excited he was to try the new Beaujolais Nouveau. I gently noted how different that sort of wine is from the ones we were tasting, and he was befuddled.

This enthusiast assumed that the overall narrative of Nouveau – fresh, simple wine, recently made, drunk by farmers to celebrate the harvest – translates into the wine itself. But most Nouveau is not simple. It is heavily concocted, undergoing an intensive semi-industrial process to ensure a consistent product. Its agricultural provenance is largely a sham. (French law stipulates, however, that it be made exclusively from hand-picked grapes.)

“Wait’ll I tell my wife,” he said. “She loves Nouveau, and she’s a stickler for buying natural and organic foods, and supporting farmers.” We have a long way to go before the purity and simplicity that the farm-to-table ethos has brought to bear on the food we eat is truly demanded for the wine we drink. Beaujolais Nouveau tastes like candy, bananas, figs, bubblegum. Wine does not naturally come to taste that way. Chemical additives likely are at work, changing the color and flavor of the wine.

The industry has a responsibility to tell this man’s wife what went into that wine to make it taste that way, but I’m not holding my breath for label disclosures to simply appear. Transparency in wine ingredients and process will come the way it came to food: through the long, uphill slog of ardent consumer demand. If we check our health-consciousness and ethical judgment at the door to the wine cellar, we get what we deserve.

Beaujolais makes some of my favorite wines. There is no more pleasurable wine in the world than a good Villages-level Beaujolais, and Cru Beaujolais (from such sites as Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent) is extraordinarily lovely. The clean, grippy, gulpy texture of these wines makes me jump for joy, and it is with good reason that Beaujolais is served copiously at traditional bistros.

But pleasure is different from entertainment. The latter masquerades as the former in order to fill 35 million bottles with Nouveau each year.

Here’s a true story: The public relations guy who emailed me a couple of weeks ago to see if I’d like to interview Duboeuf’s export director about Nouveau emailed again me a few days later offering to “connect you with a local Firestone Complete Auto Care expert technician for a story about the importance of winter tires, winter tire technology and prepping vehicles for bitter temperatures.”

That’s the game, folks. The game continually threatens to swallow us. But I come to wine as respite from the game, not as yet another opportunity to get played.

While the triumph of mass-marketing is not confined to wine, wine has been poisoned by it nonetheless. We all fall victim to PR gimmickry from time to time, but it’s worth mounting some resistance, isn’t it? I’d rather not give wine a full pass, even at risk of coming across as a sourpuss.

A few smaller producers continue to make very good, very honest Beaujolais Nouveau, though of course these are overshadowed by the Duboeuf juggernaut. The family-run domaines of Manoir du Carra, Trenel and Pral farm old vines on granite soils. These are real Beaujolais wines, in the traditional style of fresh farmer wine. One or more are available for retail sale at Aurora Provisions and RSVP in Portland; The Cheese Iron in Scarborough; Good Life Market in Raymond; Now You’re Cooking in Bath; Treats in Wiscasset; The Wine Seller in Rockland; Rivers End in Damariscotta; Blue Hill Wine Shop; the New Gloucester Village Store; Downeast Wine Imports in Kennebunk; Bow Street Market in Freeport; HB Provisions in Kennebunk; Tully’s in Wells; Pineland Farms in Gray; and Oak Street Provisions in Boothbay.

Thanks to all of them (and maybe a few others) for slipping out from under. I can’t wait to drink real Beaujolais – Nouveau and Vieux – at Thanksgiving dinner.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

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