It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!
Rod and I celebrated the arrival of BJN in Paris last year in November and it was such an interesting experience that we decided to start a new tradition here in our own neck of the woods. 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 great day, many stores advertised that Beaujolais was coming soon, and on the great day signs sprouted all over, “Le Beaujolais est arrive!”
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?
We’ve set our party in Urbana for Friday November 21st, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
So, here’s a bit of background information, for fun.
The arrival of 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 party, 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, from local growers. 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, not to mention throughout France. Due to the marketing and promotion efforts of Georges Deboeuf in the 1960s this local tradition has become a worldwide celebration of this unique French wine.
The region it comes from 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, growing principally the gamay grape. By law, the grapes for Beaujolais must be picked by hand. The wine owes its taste to a unique fermentation process called carbonic maceration. In this process, 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 and this 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.
The arrival of BJN—or le Beaujo—is above all an occasion to get together with friends and have some fun. If you can’t stay up till midnight on Wednesday, don’t worry. People continue with 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 at this party. After all, until the first bottle is uncorked, no one quite knows what to expect from it—so be prepared for surprises!
The wine itself has a light purplish red color with a fresh, fruity taste and should be served slightly cool. This is definitely not a swirl, sniff and sip wine. In fact, its charm lies in the fact that you don’t have to pay it any special homage, you just have to enjoy it, like an early present. It’s festive, but casual.