Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

A storefront poster from the 1997 Beaujolais Nouveau release in France

In November 1997, I was living in Dijon, France and starting to feel rather sorry for myself as the traditional American holiday season approached.  I’m a {bit} of a devotee to tradition, and I knew that all across the U.S. families were making plans to gather together for Thanksgiving.  I would be heading home four weeks later just in time for Christmas, but it was little consolation as the fourth Thursday in November approached.

Compounding the feeling of impending doom were a couple of minor crime incidents in our student apartment foyer and my distress that the smog of the city was causing soot to literally accumulate on my skin.  It was, all in all, a formula for utter despair.

Happily, however, there was a brief respite to all my attempts at generally acting like Eeyore.  On the third Thursday in November, the Beaujolais Nouveau is released at the stroke of midnight.

Photo from PATRICIAPARISIENNE – click to read full article

I’d certainly done my homework (cough) on wine during my semester abroad, dutifully visiting wineries and caves and dégustations (tastings) with far more scholarly dedication than, well… my supposedly scholarly pursuits.  However, nothing prepared me for the way the entire region (if not nation) merrily set aside its duties to celebrate the birth of the new wine.  What a fantastic approach to life, by the way… an entire day set aside for celebrating new wine.  Sigh.

In subsequent years, I’ve missed that exciting debut… and it occurred to me (no doubt spurred by some article in some food or wine magazine) that the annual release of the Beaujolais Nouveau coincided perfectly with Thanksgiving.  While not being a turkey connoisseur myself, I knew that a lighter wine with a slight chill and forward fruit would be the perfect accompaniment to turkey: sort of cranberry sauce in the form of liquid libations.  And so, for well over a decade we have always picked up the new Beaujolais for Thanksgiving dinner…. typically the Georges Duboeuf – partially because it is readily available stateside, but also thanks to their masterful delivery of the annual release.

The label and notes from our 2005 bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau

The striking labels alone are a treat each year, but on the off-chance you select your wine for merits other than a pretty tag, Beaujolais will be worth your time.  It’s a (typically) fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape, and it’s a “young” wine bottled weeks after harvest.  Gone are all the uppity and revered traditions around “putting wine back” – this is a flirty wine that is ready to get out and party – stat.  It’s typically (gasp!) served just slightly chilled.  Here’s a fun review of the new Beaujolais (that’s bo-zjo-leh) from a trendy Chicago haunt.

Tragically, a small harvest this year made it tougher than usual to find my favorite November release, but it should be available and would be well worth your time to pick up for a holiday meal.  Take it along as the perfect, unique bottle to offer a hostess or serve with Christmas dinner, and be sure to make note to keep up with the fuss in the future.  This is one habit you just might want to steal from the French.

And by all means, tell me about your favorite holiday wine!

À votre santé!

A tastevin (wine tasting cup) and thermometer from the bar Chez Stephens

P.S. I have some FAB giveaways starting Friday over on the main Little Magpie blog – subscribe so that you don’t miss them!


One comment

  1. I lived in Montpellier for a year studying abroad and loved it. My best friend, who’s from Ohio, and I made a huge Thanksgiving feast for all our French friends. Pumpkin pie was a HUGE hit!

    I didn’t have a great experience with the Beaujolais. We probably got a super crap bottle but it tasted terrible! I haven’t tried it since then because my French friends told me that most Beaujolais is crap because it’s the first wine of the season but because it’s the first wine, it’s celebrated!

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