Beaujolais Nouveau Dinner

For most of us, the third Thursday of November is just another chilly autumn day a couple of weeks before the holiday season kicks in. But for many wine lovers in France and around the globe, that day marks the celebration of the release of a wine ‘delicacy’ known to divide wine connoisseurs.

At one minute past midnight, over one million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey from the Beaujolais region through the sleeping French countryside to Paris for their immediate shipment all over the globe. Banners proclaim the news: “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” (The New Beaujolais has arrived!) and with that one of the most vibrant rituals of the wine world kicks off.

The region of Beaujolais lies just north of France’s third largest city, Lyon, and is home to nearly 4000 grape growers. All grapes in the region must be picked by hand, similarly to Champagne; hand harvesting is only mandatory in these two regions in France.

There is only one grape that is permitted for Beaujolais Nouveau and that is the ‘Gamay noir Jus Blanc’. This wine can only be made from grapes originating from the regions of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. The process to produce Beaujolais Nouveau is called the ‘carbonic maceration‘ (or ‘whole berry fermentation’) and it creates a fresh, fruity flavour in the wine without extracting the bitter tannins from the grape skin. During the process whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide-rich environment prior to crushing, and most of the juices are fermented while still inside the grape. It doesn’t take more than six to eight weeks from harvest to release: expeditious harvest, rapid fermentation and speedy bottling are all done in a matter of weeks.

The ‘release’ of the Beaujolais Nouveau began about a century ago as a local phenomenon in bars, cafes, and restaurants of Beaujolais and Lyon. Each autumn the new Beaujolais would arrive with heightened anticipation – once released pitchers were filled from the growers barrels directly and it was consumed by the eager population in bars and bistros across the region. Eventually, however, the government stepped in to control the sale of this quickly transported and consumed wine: 1938 regulations were set up to control the production and the distribution. However in 1951  they were revoked by the regions governing body, the ‘Union Interprofessional des Vins de Beaujolais’ (UIVB) and the Beaujolais Nouveau was officially recognised. The official release date was set for November 15th – the Beaujolais Nouveau was born.

By this time the news of this ‘local’ event spread to Paris and the idea to race the wine to the capital was born. By the 1970s the race was a national event and in the 1980s began to spread to the neighbouring countries in Europe, followed by North America and Asia in the 1990s

In 1985 the release date was changed again to the third Thursday of November, tying it to the weekend to make the celebration complete.  — from TravelGluttons