Every year on the third Thursday in November, corks can be heard popping around the world to herald the advent of the newborn baby Beaujolais.
Raise your glasses, mesdames et messieurs, le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!
Ironically, the country where the fewest guests actually show up to the party is France. The whole Beaujolais Nouveau fever has never really caught on here, outside of the Beaujolais wine-growing region itself.
Apparently the party is the biggest in Japan, which gets the most bottles and special permission to start the festivities several hours ahead.
I’ve always been a sucker for a good marketing coup, and Beaujolais Nouveau is a great example. I love the excitement around the opening of the first bottle, which can legally only happen at 12:01 a.m. on B-Day. I like the fun and festivities of ringing in a young, upstart wine that’s served chilled and not to be taken seriously. One of my most sour grapes is wine snobbery.
But the French are resistant to marketing and all things commercial. They are also not fans of young wines in general or Beaujolais in particular. The Gamay grape is too lightweight for the French palate, which shows a marked preference for the fuller-bodied Bordeaux. They tend to prefer a mature wine which has fait ses preuves – or stood the test of time.
And the fact is that Beaujolais is not the only wine to be born on this day. A whole host of vins nouveaux or vins primeurs (young wines) from regions all over France will be released around the same time (not to be confused with the wines en primeur, a whole other deal where buyers invest in wine futures or the nouveaux crus before their value is officially defined).
For the past few years the marketing minds behind Beaujolais Nouveau have been trying to reposition it as a highly fashionable affair going shoulder to shoulder with French haute couture. Personally I believe this is a mistake as it goes against the very grain of the light-hearted nouveaux wines and tries to give it a serious air.
This year marks the first time a Mademoiselle Beaujolais Nouveau has been crowned and will participate in Thursday’s events. Young (21), pretty and wearing a ruby red robe, she will be the personification of Beaujolais Nouveau itself.
Here’s hoping it’s a good year – and if not, a good party. Tchin!