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It’s Wine O’Clock: Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Desiree Michels

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Sommeliers through the ages have been proponents of the phrase ‘Good things come to those who wait’. However, over the past five decades, a lovely red with an unusually short fermentation time has been taking the world by storm. Get your glasses at the ready because Beaujolais Nouveau Day is fast approaching!

Cheap and Cheerful

Once upon a time, Beaujolais Nouveau was the favourite of locals in the French region, as it was a wine that was made to celebrate the end of the harvest. This popular tipple was nice and cheap, and was used as an indicator of the new grape crop’s taste. With a shelf life of only six months, this wine was very seasonal and was made for autumnal celebrations.

This red wine owes its fresh taste to its short fermentation process. Gamay grapes are carefully hand-picked before being poured into a large sealed vessel and topped up with carbon dioxide. As the grapes are slowly crushed and begin fermenting, more carbon dioxide is released, aiding the fermentation of the other grapes. This process is called ‘carbon maceration’, and explains why the fermentation only takes a few weeks. A lovely, fresh wine is produced with a low tannin content. It doesn’t improve with age, so it should be consumed immediately!

The Race is On!

Originally the drink of grape growers, a few entrepreneurial locals saw the potential of Beaujolais Nouveau in the early twentieth century. They had a lightbulb moment and launched the idea of a race, proposing that the first person to get to Paris with the new vintage wins. This competition caught on quickly, and soon races were taking place with finish lines all over the world. And so Beaujolais Nouveau Day, one of the most fun and frivolous wine-related festivals, was born.

The race has been run in various inventive – and sometimes ridiculous – ways. The new vintage has been carried in rickshaws and has floated in hot air balloons, travelled on an elephant and at record speeds in a Concorde jet plane. Legend has it that the formal dress-code of the Ritz Hotel in London was abandoned to allow the delivery of a brand-new bottle of the wine on Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Today, you can take part in a car race from the UK to France and back again in order to secure a few bottles of the good stuff.

The wine is released on the third Thursday of November and signs declaring ‘le Beaujolais est arrivé’ are put up globally to celebrate its arrival. However, the best place to be on this day is in the wine’s home region, where around 100 festivals celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day. The best known of these is in the region’s capital, Les Sarmentelles de Beaujeu. Here, you’ll find an infamous wine-tasting competition, where the winner can claim their weight in wine. As you can imagine, when the vino is released at one minute past midnight, it is the beginning of a huge, and boozy, party. Sign me up!

Author Plate

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays. With excellent shore excursions, including the chance to enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau Day , barge holidays offer a wide range of experiences. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.


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