Beaujolais: The Real Deal 

Beaujolais nouveau, that light and fruity quaff made from grapes that were hanging on the vine just weeks before, will be released Thursday, Nov. 18. They fly it over from France for the unveiling, and in wine venues around the world, the corks pop. But while it's a fun celebration, beaujolais nouveau is a mere shadow of real beaujolais. Made from the same gamay noir grape, the real thing has all the lively fruit of a nouveau, but with more depth and better structure. Here are the panel's top beaujolais picks:

2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages, $9.99

From a man widely regarded as the king of beaujolais, this crowd-pleasing entry from the outstanding 2009 vintage shows why. This wine opens with lush aromas of dark cherry and juicy raspberry with hints of tobacco and spice. Ripe and round in the mouth and bursting with bright berry and cherry fruit flavors, the finish lingers nicely in this luscious Beaujolais.

2009 Terres Dorees Beaujolais L'Ancien, $14.99

Beautifully fragrant aromas explode from the glass highlighted by raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb and a touch of herb. Surprisingly complex on the palate, this wine leads off with creamy cherry and blueberry fruit playing against crisp acidity. Layers of mineral, mocha, spice and anise come through on the finish of this impressive wine.

2008 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, $10.99

The only 2008 in the tasting, this wine cracked the top three with its light but lovely floral aromas of sweet cherry and violet. It's a charming wine with a nice richness, marked by silky, cherry flavors. Good acidity comes through, especially on the finish, making for a very food-friendly wine.

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