How Beaujolais Nouveau Took Over the World
From a little-known regional wine to global sensation in a few decades, a new Beaujolais Nouveau vintage debuts every November.
Authorisation for the release of a new batch of Beaujolais Nouveau is announced annually on the third Thursday in November. Up to 65 million bottles of this young (two months old) pinkish-red wine are produced every year, and connoisseurs from France and the UK to South Korea and Japan await with bated breath for its arrival on their tables.
But what makes it such a status symbol? The backstory of one of France’s most popular wines is as intriguing as its taste.
What is Beaujolais Nouveau?
To qualify for certification, Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that must come from the Gamay grape varietal within the Beaujolais Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) region of eastern France – just north of the fine-dining hotspot that is Lyon.
This region is, of course, also famous for its more traditional Grand Cru Beaujolais wines, made from the same grape but designed to age well over several years – and is considerably more expensive!
Beaujolais Nouveau must be harvested by hand and, unlike other French wines, is drunk soon after harvesting. It’s called “nouveau” because it’s exactly that: a new wine from the recently picked vintage. It’s affordable, light in body and best served chilled to bring out its fresh flavours.
The phenomenon that is Beaujolais Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau is a vin de primeur, a tannin-light wine consumed in the same year that it’s made. Traditionally it was drunk in local vineyards to celebrate the end of the vendange – the annual grape harvest between August and October.
But when did all the festivities that surround the wine’s much-anticipated annual appearance begin? Back in the 1950s, Beaujolais Nouveau distributors competed to get their bottles into Parisian restaurants first, and slowly media coverage of the race increased. By the 1970s, banners proclaiming “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé !” started appearing in hostelries across France, enticing customers in to savour the newly arrived vintage.
Wine drinkers and restaurateurs across the world soon caught on and joined in the frenzy. Today, Beaujolais Nouveau is a star on the international stage.
What to eat with Beaujolais Nouveau
Light, fruity and with no heavy tannins, Beaujolais Nouveau is really versatile when it comes to food pairings. As Beaujolais Nouveau Day is in late November, the wine combines well with autumnal comfort foods: charcuterie boards full of spicy cured meats, goat cheese, Brie and Camembert. Try a glass with duck breast, a slab of lightly seared tuna or lardon salads. Or pour it over a bowl of strawberries to really brings out the flavour of the fruit.
Beaujolais Nouveau is becoming an increasingly popular accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner in the US and Christmas feasts around the world. You can also enjoy a glass sans food. Just remember that it drinks well when chilled, but definitely should not be served cold. Never leave a bottle in the fridge for more than half an hour.
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