Beaujolais Nouveau Day has become a world-wide celebration of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau – a red wine from Beaujolais in the Burgundy region of France.
By law, the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau takes place at precisely 12.01 am on the third Thursday of November. This liberation of the young red wine, made with Gamay grapes harvested just six to eight weeks before bottling is accompanied by fireworks, music and festivities in Beaujolais. It’s an excuse for a party in towns and cities in France as bars and restaurants offer Beaujolais to customers for the night and then often for a limited period after – this isn’t a wine that keeps for long.
Just what makes this such an eventful release – after all there are many hundreds of different French wines every year but none that seem to attract quite so much joyful anticipation!
When did Beaujolais Nouveau Day begin?
It goes back to a clever marketing idea… Back in the 1950s the makers of the wine decided to try to increase the sales of this very young vintage as there wasn’t a huge demand. Selling young wine wasn’t a new practice; centuries ago wine makers sold new wine more often than not since preserving it was not so easy. However the practice of selling youthful wine had fallen out of favour as maturation methods improved.
Beaujolais Nouveau wine has been produced since the 19th century mainly for local consumption – it was particularly popular in bistros in Lyons and for drinking after the harvest had finished thanks to its low cost.
At first it proved difficult for the Beaujolais Nouveau producers to shift any significant quantities to buyers elsewhere. An astute marketing campaign introduced the concept of a race to Paris to carry the first bottles released for consumption in cafés and restaurants. This shrewd idea to place the wine firmly in the capital was a success.
In the 1970s one of the wine producers – Georges Duboeuf, was instrumental in getting even more coverage for the Beaujolais Nouveau race event. Banners reading “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” began to appear everywhere and the idea of a race to carry the wine to eager consumers grew to become a worldwide event.
Marketing is possibly the reason behind Beaujolais Nouveau Day being the third Thursday in November. It is a good day to celebrate – workers only have Friday to get through and Thursday is traditionally a good night for going out!
What sort of wine is Beaujolais Nouveau?
Beaujolais Nouveau is certainly not considered a posh wine – it is the result of a speedy fermentation process and has a fresh clean taste according to the makers. In the region where it is produced there are more than 100 official celebrations in its honour and Beaujolais Nouveau parties take place all over France though some consider it to be a mere marketing ploy. France is certainly not the biggest consumer of this famous young wine – the biggest importers are Japan, Germany and the US – where Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a big deal!
Opinions are divided as to the merits of Beaujolais Nouveau – some people love the whole festive release hoo-ha – others think it frankly a bit… nouveau!