It’s Beaujolais Nouveau time

When will you get yours?

It is common knowledge that Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. But do you know what happens on the third Thursday of November at precisely 12:01 a.m.? It’s a special day, too, for it’s Beaujolais Day!

In France, this means a weeklong celebration, including music and food festivals throughout the Beaujolais region. The Beaujolais grape farmers are honored in a torch-lit parade, and fireworks at midnight mark the release of the young, fresh wine. It’s a big deal. The wine has been around for more than 100 years, and it used to be drunk by regional producers to celebrate the end of a successful harvest season. The wine barely ages. It is harvested, enjoys a four- to 10-day maceration period, is aged in stainless steel tanks and then released just weeks after the harvest, which is incredible. The grape type for the wine is called Gamay.

The Beaujolais region is 34 miles long and 7 to 9 miles wide. Gamay is grown all over the area, and there are indeed other Beaujolais wines with the AOC (Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée – official, government-approved grape growing areas) designation. You can buy some fairly priced and delicious wines from Fleurie, Cote de Brouilly, Cru Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. These are typically “better” wines than the Nouveau designation because they have aged far longer. There are 4,000 vineyards and 12 AOC designation in Beaujolais.

Before I knew anything at all about wine, I used to purchase Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving celebrations because, well, it was cheap and it was good. Everyone liked the young and fruity red wine, and it went well enough with the varied smorgasbord of foods offered at the holiday dinner table. The funny thing is, all these years later, I still like it. Look, it is what is: clean, cherry-driven, drinkable and affordable. Who would not like that? Ahem, it’s also best served with a little chill (wine snobs, hide your eyes). As it turns out, French people know how to make wine, even when they make it really fast. The Beaujolais Nouveau is juicy, light-bodied and has a refreshing acidity. The wine is meant to be drunk as young as possible, so don’t hold on to it for a year. Honestly, it’s about as close to a white wine as a red wine can get. It’s a gateway wine!

You have most likely heard of Georges Duboeuf, the most famous Beaujolais Nouveau producer. He is the genius behind the marketing of the wine and its region. In the 1950s, he was trying to get more recognition for the area and its wines.

He created a race in which all the towns and villages of Beaujolais would battle each other and see who could get into the Paris markets first, literally racing to market. The new wine and race was a smashing hit. The media loved it. By the 1970s, the release of Beaujolais Nouveau was a full-blown national event.

By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region’s total annual production will be distributed and drunk around the world. When will you get yours?

Here’s a fun opportunity: Jeff Armstrong at Wine Time, 6210 Covington Road, does a Beaujolais Nouveau release every year at 12:01 a.m. This year it’s Nov. 17. (People come a few minutes before midnight on Wednesday.)

First appeared in the November 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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