Today, the third Thursday in November, is Beaujolais Nouveau Day (or, as we say here, bo-zhol-ay noo-vo Day), and marks the official release of the 2017 Nouveau wines with fireworks, music and festivals. The entire wine world celebrates on the same day traditionally at midnight - although most events start a littler earlier. Can you think of a better reason to have a party on a Thursday night!?
Produced in the French region of Beaujolais, the wine is actually made from a variety of grapes called Gamay. By French law, all grapes in the region must be harvested by hand - which must be quite a task given nearly 40 million bottles are produced each year!
Beaujolais Nouveau Day has been heavily marketed, with producers racing to get the first bottles to different markets around the globe. An idea came about to race to Paris carrying the first bottles of the new vintage... attracting quite a bit of media coverage, by the 1970s this ‘race’ had become a national event, with Frenchmen being seen rolling barrels down the streets. Soon spreading to neighbouring countries in Europe in the 1980s, North America followed, and in the 1990s to Asia - with the local distributors all getting in on the fun!
So, what makes a good Beaujolais Nouveau? A tricky question. Importantly, the wines change every year in taste, so the fruit flavours you taste with one vintage will likely be slightly different the following year - even from the same producer.
As the quick production method produces wines with very little tannin, the final product is a very fruity wine, incorporating flavours like strawberry, fig, pear, and even banana. While some Nouveau can be kept for a few years, there's no real reason to, as it doesn't improve with age - meaning you don’t have to feel bad about grabbing one off the rack soon after you buy it (I mean, c’mon, we’ve all done that). Unusually for a red wine, it’s also recommended to be served slightly chilled, at around 13°C.
Matching well with simple foods, try it with sausage, heavier salads, or macaroni & cheese - or do what the Americans do this time of year, and pair it with turkey and cranberry sauce! Nouveau is also a good choice to match with fondue (or cheddar, gouda… or just… cheese).
Beaujolais Nouveau is not a wine to sniff, swirl, and contemplate; it’s a wine to pour and party with - so go on, crack one open and celebrate French-style with family and friends.
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