When the clock strikes midnight, heralding the third Thursday of November, a part of France starts partying, for the Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive.
Historically the celebration of this wine was confined to the region in southern Burgundy where it is produced. But over the last forty five years the sale of one million bottles has multiplied into seventy million bottles distributed worldwide. The race to get the wine on the table originally began by the producers being the first to get their bottle to Paris. But in the early 1970’s a journalist by the name of Allan Hall of the London Sunday Times challenged his readers to be the first to bring back a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau from France. Each year this race increased in grandeur, with competitors becoming ever more ingenious in the methods of transport used. From hot air balloons, to parachuting in, even the Royal Air Force got involved using a Harrier jump jet. The race spread around the world firstly to Europe, then across the Atlantic and finally to Asia.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape which is a totally different variety from the Californian Gamay Beaujolais. The handpicked grapes are only pressed for three days resulting in a light red wine that doesn’t have the astringent tannins associated with normal red wine. After just six weeks from harvesting, the wine is bottled and ready for drinking. Unlike many other red wines, fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau is best drunk young, preferably before New Year’s Day. Even in a year of an excellent vintage, it should still be drunk before the following year becomes available. Best served chilled, the flavor is often decried by the wine critics but is pleasantly reminiscent of summer berries with a light and refreshing body.
Cooking with Beaujolais Nouveau in place of a usual heavier red lightens many a dish. For example poached pears or Coq au Vin Nouveau even and as it is such a light wine it can be substituted in recipes calling for white wine.
Nowadays, the major producers are shipping the wine across the world in plastic bottles to decrease their carbon footprints which also saves on breakages. Especially important as this year’s vintage is expected to be a very good one owing to perfect weather. As famed wine producer and marketer, Georges Duboeuf puts it “We have not seen anything like this for a long time”.
Photos courtesy of flickr - Emile Boudet, David Vitto, flaurella and Theogeo