Hand-pressing wine

Here in France it is traditional to celebrate the arrival of les vins primeurs – the most famous of which is the ‘Beaujolais nouveau‘ – on the third Thursday of November. It seems that this year our attention has been on politics and past terrorist acts rather than festivities around the young wines. There’s been barely a ripple in the news and even in the shops I’ve seen little noise around les vins nouveaux.

To be fair, the French are not crazy about young wines, believing that they give you a headache, and tend to view the whole Beaujolais Nouveau craze as a marketing scheme to attract foreigners. It has certainly been more successful overseas.

I happen to enjoy the young wines of the Beaujolais and the Rhône valley and over the years have been an avid consumer of our local produce.

A few kilometres away from our former hometown in the Monts du Lyonnais was the village of Taluyers. The road to that town had but one attraction for us, but one that kept us coming back regularly for years: Le Domaine de Prapin, a grower of the wine called Coteaux du Lyonnais. The Chardonnay whites were truly magical, the still hand-pressed Gamay reds pleasantly fruity. Best of all, we discovered that you could buy directly from the producer. Our car beat a path to their door on many weekends.

wine-skinWe were delighted to learn that you could buy the wine in bulk, en vrac, in a box container with a vacuum-packed bag inside, to keep the wine from spoiling (chance would be a fine thing), and a handy spout for serving. What the English pragmatically referred to as a bag-in-a-box, they simply called une outre, the term loosely referring to a traditional wine skin.

Not only was it more economical to buy the wine this way, it was a relief to have fewer bottles to dispose of. Glass is recycled in collective containers on street corners in France, and there were times when I was tempted to take out our recycling by cover of night – if it weren’t for the noise. Our empties made a satisfying smash as they landed in the container but it was impossible to get rid of them discreetly. I felt as if I should wear a sign that said ‘I am not an alcoholic, I support the local produce’.

In a comedic quirk of the French language, the word ‘outrer’ means to push to the limits of the acceptable, to the outrageous or outlandish. When we ran out of wine, my husband would joke that we were ‘outrés’ and make a quick run over to Prapin.


Have you enjoyed any of this year’s vins nouveaux? Do you care whether your wine comes from a bottle or a box?


  1. When I went on my first maternity many moons ago, a box became our standard wine fare, much as it had in our uni days. I’m still not fussy. I hadn’t come across the term ‘outre’ for wine skin. When I looked into it; surprise, surprise, Australia was the first to use the ‘bag in a box’ for wine.

    En emballage, la caisse-outre (pluriel : caisses-outres), ou le cubi, est un contenant de taille … Le premier pays où le vin fut conditionné en caisse-outre est l’Australie dans les années 1960

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      Perhaps the need was greatest in Australia…necessity being the mother of innovation? I remember our wine guy explaining that their system was superior to the ‘cubi’ as it was vacuum-packed so the wine would not go off after several days. Needless to say not a concern for us! 😉

      • Not sure if this is common around the world but we used to refer to it as ‘chateau cardboard’ (imagine here a broad Aussie accent). Amongst my fellow uni students, longevity was also not an issue…

  2. francetaste · November 24, 2016

    This is hilarious! I love the outre/outré joke.
    Our local château has great box wine. My husband was opposed to the idea of wine without a cork, but I noticed that every home I entered in our village had a box of the local wine on the kitchen counter. They couldn’t all be wrong, and indeed they weren’t. Now it’s our “daily” wine.

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      Glad someone else got it the joke! 😉
      Lucky you to have a good local wine. I think it’s a good idea to observe the locals ‘when in…’ and emulate their practices when it comes to food and wine. The box approach makes perfect sense for everyday consumption and probably more écolo.

  3. Colin Bisset · November 24, 2016

    Always used to fall for the ‘le nouveau est arrive’ hype in the UK. I have bought wine from the caves near Orange in big plastic gallon (or equivalent) containers called (I think) bonbonnieres (correct me if that’s wrong). Not vacuum-packed but the wine, as in your household, was gone long before staleness might’ve been put to the test.

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      I wonder if it’s not rather ‘bonbonne’? Usually used to refer to a gas bottle but similar in size. In any case, glad you found a container to match your thirst!

      • Colin Bisset · November 24, 2016

        Ah thank you, I thought it wasn’t quite right!

  4. phildange · November 24, 2016

    Yes you are right, it is bonbonne, a huge bottle, made traditionally of glass and now of plastic alas . Une bonbonnière is only a container full of “bonbons” .
    The joke results from a coincidence . “Outre” as a preposition means beyond, like in outre-mer, outre-tombe, outre-Atlantique, and “outré” comes from this . People are “outrés” when something beyond the limits of what is acceptable is done . These words come from the Latin root “ultra” .
    “Une outre”, a container for liquids always made of animal skin ( and now of damned plastic), comes from “uter”, a latin alternative term for belly, then for bottle .
    So you see it is a linguistic coincidence, nevertheless meaningful, if I can be “outré” to see une “outre” made of plastic .
    OK folks that was our minute of informative pedantry . Now you may go back to your alcoholic excesses .

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      Ha, ha….surely not before noon, even in France? 😉
      Thanks for the interesting etymology and exploration of the roots of ‘outre’. I sympathize with your sentiment of outrage about the plastic, even while appreciating its practicality.

  5. Food,Photography & France · November 24, 2016

    Funnily enough I haven’t noticed much Beaujolais Nouveau around here…as I don’t buy it, I guess that’s not surprising….but today I did see some Gamay Nouveau in Lidl at a crazy price so I bought a couple and it’s OK…no more or less than I’d expect…

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      I haven’t seen any Beaujolais nouveau around either, maybe they’ve shipped it all to Japan? Lidl does have some surprising finds. Glad it lived up to your (clearly low) expectations!

  6. Suzanne et Pierre · November 24, 2016

    I am not a big fan of new wine and especially the Beaujolais. It is just a marketing ploy to sell us wine at inflated prices that isn’t worth it…It didn’t seem to get a lot of attention here as well this year. Normally we see a lot of more ads for Beaujolais nouveau maybe the craze is over. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      You may be right, Suzanne. While there will always be celebrations around the ‘vins nouveaux’ in the local villages where they are grown, it is perhaps fading out as an event elsewhere in France and even abroad. BTW, do you have good local wines in Québec? In bottles or boxes?

  7. Katherine Wikoff · November 24, 2016

    I also enjoy the Beaujolais. Surprisingly, though, I haven’t seen it yet in my Wisconsin stores. Seems like it’s usually ready by Thanksgiving (which is today), but Thanksgiving is also a little early this year.

    • MELewis · November 24, 2016

      Aha…the plot thickens. I am beginning to think they have shipped it all to Japan! 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Redterrain · November 25, 2016

    These young wines sound quite delicious, sometimes I find the tanins in heavy wine very thick and they linger for a long time on the tongue…with young wines is this not the case? If so, I’ll have to do some searching. I’m all for any wine that doesn’t break the bank at this stage ahah. We have been having a lot of local NZ wines (well me mostly!).

    • MELewis · November 25, 2016

      I absolutely agree about the tanins (at least I think that’s what it is?). Don’t know enough about wine to say if that is what makes them so ‘chewy’ as some say, but you have described exactly what I don’t like in the more full-bodied reds like Bordeaux. The thing is, wines like Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône that we drink young don’t age as well. NZ is known for really good wines so I am sure you have a good selection. Must have a sip or two of something nice in the evening!

  9. Osyth · November 25, 2016

    I used to love Beaujolais Nouveau day when I was running the Cheese Shop … my husband was in charge of the relatively small cellar of wines we sold and made a big fuss of the BN because as you rightly say, in England, certainly then, it was a good little earner. We used to get people queuing before we opened and most of them were pleasantly pickled by the time they left because of course we had bottles open for tasting. Fun times. I love the play on Outre to Outrer …. my husband will enjoy that one on a number of different levels (I don’t think he knows the wine-skin term having been horribly rude about me buying a bag in a box early on in Cantal)!!

    • phildange · November 25, 2016

      There is a phrase that can often be heard : “plein comme une outre” ( English full to bursting), normally used after too much eating, and also wrongly (as “plein” alone is a frequent colloquial synonym for drunk) sometimes used after too much drinking . I guess this meaning shouldn’t be ignored by the followers of this blog, given the success of this post …

      • MELewis · November 25, 2016

        That’s funny, I once heard my mother-in-law use the word ‘pleine’ to refer to a female dog who was pregnant. I struck the term from my vocabulary after that, having the tendency to want to translate literally from English: “I’m full.” (As one so often is at the end of a French meal). Did not realize it also meant drunk. Now we are warned!

  10. MELewis · November 25, 2016

    And in reply to Osyth: your list of fascinating former lives grows richer each day… Glad to have given you something to tease Two-Brains with!

  11. Mél@nie · November 25, 2016

    @”the French are not crazy about young wines…” – I do confirm, even though I’m not ‘very’ French… 😉 I’ve never met(known) anyone in my entourage who drinks ‘brand new wines’…

    • MELewis · November 26, 2016

      Agree that ‘brand new’ is not a quality in wine! I actually like young wines that are around 1-2 years in the bottle. Gives ’em time to round up a bit and deliver something interesting without becoming overly intense, or losing something in the process. I met my husband when he was ‘brand new’ and I was rather ‘mature’ so perhaps it’s a life-long preference! 😉

      • Mél@nie · November 27, 2016

        @ ‘around 1-2 years in the bottle’ = same here, Mel dear… 🙂 same-bis @ ‘a life-long preference!’ 😉

  12. Lisa @ cheergerm · November 25, 2016

    I have not found our Aussie wine in a box to be anywhere near the kind of quality I imagine your ‘Chateau Cardboard’ would be. Lately, our big wine supplier has had a good stock of French rosés that we haven’t seen before that are reasonably priced and very delicious.

    • MELewis · November 26, 2016

      I do enjoy a nice rosé, especially in the warmer months, and there is a vast selection around here. Aussie wines have a very good reputation where I come from, in Canada….but I must admit we don’t see a lot of them in France. Even Italian wines are relatively rare in our shops – more’s the pity as I like them a lot!

  13. zipfslaw1 · November 26, 2016

    When I go back to the US after a few weeks in France, I take all of the empty wine bottles that have accumulated on my kitchen counter out to the recycling bin across the street at the same time. It always gives the serveurs at the café downstairs a good laugh.

    • MELewis · November 26, 2016

      Might as well go out with a bang!

  14. David · November 28, 2016

    My friends and I always used to buy a few bottles of Beaujolis Nouveau every year and have a mini tasting party. While that stopped years ago, I just finished off a bottle of Joseph Droubin that I opened yesterday. Quite delightful!

    • MELewis · November 29, 2016

      Do not know that particular producer but glad you enjoyed it!

  15. George Lewis · November 28, 2016

    Just had my first nouveau of the season. Tastes very good too me. The LCBO stores have an excellent selection at very good prices for Canada. I think most of it comes here for the immature tastes of the colonies.

    • MELewis · November 29, 2016

      Everything tastes to you! 😉 Well, the young wines are perhaps more ‘accessible’ to palates not so well developed. Probably explains why I still enjoy them!

  16. roughwighting · December 2, 2016

    I like old wines and new wines if they are red, intense and delicious. No ageism here. 😏

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