French Language Blog

Like Wine? You Gotta Try the Beaujolais Nouveau! Posted by on Nov 26, 2017 in Culture, Vocabulary

Image via Pexel.

It’s November, and for those of us in the States, the 4th Thursday of the month means expressing our gratitude by stuffing ourselves senseless with turkey and lining up to go shopping at 4am the next morning. In France, though, it is the 3rd Thursday that’s a big deal.

Unlike the US’s special November Thursday, in France you don’t have to sit around and listen to your uncle discuss politics. No, it’s a different kind of celebration there. This day marks the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine!

South of Burgundy is a wine region known as Beaujolais. The climate is a bit warmer than Burgundy, so the Pinot Noir grapes popular in Burgundy don’t thrive so well in Beaujolais. That’s ok, though – there’s another grape described as a cousin to Pinot that grows very well in the area: the Gamay grape.

The Beaujolais region had always produced a wine celebrating the end of the harvest – basically, they’d make a wine, and it would be aged only a few weeks before being consumed. It wasn’t until World War II that this young wine could be purchased outside of the region. Marketers saw the potential in selling this wine elsewhere, and in the 1970s, the release of the wine had attracted a lot of media coverage. By the 1980s, the wine could be purchased in other countries in Europe, and in 1990s, it made its way to North America and Asia.

Fun fact: La récolte (the harvest) of these grapes is all done by hand! This can take up to 35,000 people working 15-20 days!

I know what you’re thinking – wine gets better with age, so why bother having some that’s only sat for a few weeks? The shorter the wine’s fermentation process, the fruitier it will be. Plus, this quick process means the wine will be less tannin. Qu’est-ce que c’est ? (What’s that?) You know how sometimes when you drink wine, your mouth tastes a bit dry afterward? That’s tannin.

These two characteristics combined produce a drinkable wine that pairs with almost anything. I was in Whole Foods the other day with my friend, and in the wine section, they were passing out samples of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. Another customer tried it and commented on how well it went down and how normally he doesn’t like wine. This makes a very nice intro wine!

This year, the wine was released at 12:01am on November 16th. It’s still a popular event- people will wait outside a store in anticipation to see what this year’s label looks like… but don’t compare it to Americans camping outside of Target for a TV on Black Friday. They’re not that engaged 😉

It’s certainly a tradition with many followers, but according to this blurb in the New York Times, restaurant owner Bernard Roques-Bouges says this day’s purpose is merely just an excuse to party.

I’ll drink to that.

What do you think of the Beaujolais tradition? Have you tried this year’s harvest? If so, what did you think?

Want to read more of our articles on wine? Check out some of the posts below:

France’s Wine Regions and Terroir

Pour ceux et celles qui aiment le vin

French Raisin Juice – Dried Grapes And False Friends

Do You Know How To Toast in French?

Warm Your Soul with This Mulled Wine Recipe!

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!