November is Beaujolais Nouveau Time! So support the French and honor a French custom by enjoying some Beaujolais Nouveau wine.
My husband and I first celebrated the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau (BJN) in Paris when we lived there a number of years ago. Even at our small local bistro by the train station in the Paris suburb of Lozere, “le Beaujo” was a major event and all the locals thoroughly enjoyed themselves—and the wine, the special snacks and the typical BJN meal.
Before the day, many stores advertised that Beaujolais was coming soon, and on the great day signs sprouted all over, “Le Beaujolais est arrive!” (Beaujolais has arrived).
Wine shops, speciality delis, and even supermarkets carried many different Beaujolais wines—many bottles with colorful and/or fanciful labels. Initially we were a bit skeptical but were soon won over—what’s not to like about this young, refreshing wine? It’s a wine miracle!
It was such an interesting experience that we decided to start a new tradition here in our own neck of the woods in the USA. Many Novembers we’ve had a BJN party at our house, and great fun was had by all, I believe.
This year (2015) we did not, but we did buy some Beaujolais Nouveau wines and raised our glasses with a couple of friends to toast France and Paris, and to wish the French people strength after the terrible attacks last weekend.
The arrival of “le Beaujo” is really just an excuse to get together with friends and have some fun. If you can’t stay up till midnight on Wednesday, don’t worry. People carry on the tasting on Thursday, and Friday, and the weekend. And it’s common to host a BJN party at home. It’s a young wine, so one doesn’t need to get too serious about it. The wine has a light purplish-red color with a fresh, fruity taste and should be served slightly cool. This is definitely not a swirl-sniff-sip wine, you just need to enjoy it. It’s festive, but casual.
So, what is this Beaujolais Nouveau, or BJN, or “le Beaujo”?
Every year at one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November, the first bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are opened in France and thousands of eager people begin drinking this young wine from the Burgundy region of France. This special event, which has now become international, began as a local tradition in Lyon. Bars and Bistros in the area would receive barrels of the wine, which had just been harvested and crushed in September. Patrons loved the light, fruity taste and there are about 120 festivals to honor the arrival of this enticing young wine in the BJ region alone, and others throughout France. Due to the marketing and promotion efforts of Georges Duboeuf in the 1960s this local tradition has become a worldwide celebration of this unique French wine.
The BJN region is small and located just north of Lyon, France’s third largest city. The grape growing area is just 34 miles long from north to south and 7-9 miles wide. In this tiny area, there are over 4,000 grape growers, mostly growing the gamay grape. By law, the grapes for Beaujolais must be picked by hand. The wine gets its taste from a unique fermentation process called carbonic maceration, which means the grapes are pressed and crushed in large vats that are then filled with carbonic dioxide and yeast. They are not allowed to remain in the vats very long, which assures that only a minimum amount of tannin is released into the wine. After only 7 weeks the wine is ready to be bottled and shipped. It’s amazing!