“Le beaujolais nouveau est arrivé”…Almost!
It could be that because Beaujolais Nouveau was a marketing stunt to sell a lesser quality wine that I have never liked the stuff. As a result, I don’t pay much attention to the frenzy that takes place every third Thursday of November at midnight when the bottles of the vintage are released to the public, either.
In case you don’t have your calendar at hand, that means this coming Thursday night, when oenophiles (or just happy drinkers) will be waiting with bated breath for a taste of the first red drops.
Nonetheless, with or without me, the world will be celebrating its arrival, not just France! The tradition dates back to the 19th-century when the Beaujolais winemakers began to sell their first bottles soon after harvest, but it wasn’t until 1967 that a date was fixed for the first time — November 15th at midnight. In 1985 that changed to the third Thursday of November.
Naturally the winemakers love it, but so do all the cafés, bars and pubs who can count on a boost of business that night and the rest of the week…and actually all the way until January while the wine is still on the shelves. Today, Beaujolais Nouveau is sold in over 100 countries…and guess who consumes the most?: the U.S., Japan and Germany!
The slogan, “Le beaujolais nouveau est arrivé…” is based on the novel by René Fallet by the same title — a wonderful story about a “Beaujolais Nouveau,” the “Café du Pauvre” and its four bar buddies. You’ll also see artist Ben Vautier’s classic chalkboards everywhere as a symbol of the annual event (or bad copies of his quintessential signature).
Media tout the wine as a real feat — a technological and commercial achievement. The harvest has ended, the grapes (100% Gamay Noir) are pressed and then undergo a rapid carbonic maceration. It’s a special technique to extract the wine in a way to release the fruity aromas of banana, grape, strawberry, fig, pear and violets in a very short time. Tannins are slightly removed and therefore the wine isn’t very astringent. To drink it properly, it should be chilled to 13°C (55°F) and drunk immediately as this is one wine that doesn’t improve with age.
“The region of Beaujolais is 34 miles long from north to south and 7 to 9 miles wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France’s third largest city, Lyon.” (intowine.com/) About 60 winemakers produce the wine…including of course, the most well-known, Georges Duboeuf. There’s a complete list of winemakers at wine-searcher.com/ if you have an urge to visit the region.
For a listing of where you can partake of Beaujolais Nouveau in Paris, visit goparis.about.com/ … or just hit your favorite watering hole and I’m sure you’ll find more than enough from which to choose! And by the end of the month, we’ll be sick to death of it (at least I will!).
One Beaujolais wine I am most fond of, and is actually my favorite of all reds, is Morgon, thanks to the Romans who planted it as early as the 7th-century. It’s not a Nouveau — it’s earthy and Burgundian with a silky texture that arrives after five years of aging. It’s deep in color and has the aroma of apricots and peaches. One hillside, the “Côte du Py,” in the center of the Morgon region, produces the most powerful examples. Now, that’s a wine worth drinking! (Try it if you haven’t already and let the Nouveau variety go by the wayside.)
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
P.S. Practice your English or French in a fun and friendly enviroment and make new friends at Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group. Meets three times a week — for more information visit Parler Parlor