According to my Frenchman, Beaujolais (BOE zioh lay) Nouveau is not a wine, it is an event. Any wine connaisseur will agree that when it comes to wine, older is better than new. The process used to harvest the Gamay grape, involving an expeditious harvest, a rapid fermentation, and a speedy bottling, may be likened to the « fast food »of French viticulture.
Beaujolais Nouveau, a young wine, only six weeks old, should be drunk before May unless it has been exceptional year like the harvest of 2000.
Beaujolais’ marketing success, is in part due to the government stipulation that the first bottle be uncorked on the 3rd Thurs of November. The race to be the first to serve the new wine begins as millions of cases are delivered to final destination by every means available, motorcycle, balloon, truck, helicopter, jet, elephant, runners and even rickshaws. The Japanese, traditionally not big wine drinkers, love this light, nectar. Beaujolais Nouvea is sold in 110 different countries with Japan being the biggest consumers, followed by the USA and Germany.
|Wine shop downtown Beaune
Four thousand grape growers cultivate the region of Beaujolais, which is 34 miles long and about 8 miles wide, just outside of Lyon, France’s 3rd largest city. These are the only vineyards, other than the champagne region in central France, where it is in mandatory to harvest the grapes by hand. Sixty-five million bottles, half of the regions total annual production making up one third of the regions entire crop will be sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.
Throughout the world, traditions have developed to celebrate the release of the Beaujolais. The biggest is a three-day party called Sarmentelles, which takes place in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. The festival is named after the French word sarments, which are the cuttings from the canes of grapevine that are burned in town on the eve of the unveiling. Lyon hosts a Beaujolympiades with two days of wine, music and fireworks. Across France, local shops and grocery stores offer a sample sip in shot glasses. Even in the Windy City, chic restaurants celebrate the wine’s arrival in places such as the Chicago Sky Lounge, Bistro Zinc, and Bistro 110.
This light bodied, fruity wine appeals to many Americans’ palates. Since it arrives a week before Thanksgiving, expats abroad often serve it with holiday meal, but not in my house. My husband, appalled that the sacred turkey be accompanied by lackluster wine that is more about marketing than quality, insists on serving the T-bird with only the finest aged Bordeaux.
French law adds to the hype by mandating not one drop may be poured until a minute after midnight am on Nov. 18th. Banners in shops, restaurants, and pubs proclaim, “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” (New Beaujolais has arrived)
Every November 18th, though my husband is not a Beaujolais Nouveau fan, we uncork a bottle to commemorate a momentous occasion in our family. Twenty years ago, we announced to the world, “le petit Nicolas est arrive!” So I raise my glass to our son, “Happy birthday, Nic, santé!”