The third Thursday in November marks an important event in the French wine region of Beaujolais: it’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day, when the annual crop of this delicious red is released to the world.
It's Beaujolais Nouveau Time
This fresh and fruity wine is made from Gamay grapes; by law, these have to be harvested by hand. The grapes are put in a huge sealed vessel which is filled with carbon dioxide; as the grapes at the bottom are crushed and start to ferment they give off more CO2, which aids the fermentation of the uncrushed grapes, too. This is a process called ‘carbonic maceration’, and is the key to the tipple’s short fermentation time and fresh taste with such a low tannin content.
Originally Beaujolais nouveau was consumed only by locals as a cheap drink with which to toast the end of the harvest season. Unlike other wines, standard vintages have a short shelf life of around 6 months.
The Race to Market
It is perhaps this short lifecycle that has encouraged the worldwide race to bring the wine to market in November each year. Traditionally the slogan “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé” has adorned banners and marketing material all over the world to advertise the arrival of the wine, although the new slogan “It’s Beaujolais Nouveau time” was introduced in English-speaking countries in 2005.
Deliveries of the drink have been made in all manner of outlandish vehicles, from hot air balloons to rickshaws, Concorde jets to elephants – and, of course, the release of the wine at 12.01 am on the third Thursday of November marks the start of some pretty serious celebrations.
There are over 100 festivals held in the region in honour of the event, the most famous of which is in Les Sarmentelles de Beaujeu, the capital of the region. If you happen to be in Beaujolais for the festival this year, be sure to take part in the tasting contest for the chance to win your weight in wine!