It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time and We are There for It

Let’s meet the new kids on the block…

On the third Thurs­day of Novem­ber, we Parisians start to perk up, see­ing the ubiq­ui­tious wine shop win­dows pro­claim­ing (and let’s be hon­est, it’s we are also get­ting our inbox­es spammed some) ‘Le Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau est arrivé!’ (Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is here!). Come late Novem­ber, we are beau­coup deplet­ed, after all of our ren­trée’ ambi­tions and projects siphon­ing off our time and atten­tion, with the sun hav­ing retreat­ed for its’ own vacation.

But who needs sero­tonin when you’ve got wine? 

What is Beaujolais Nouveau anyway?

This phrase, ‘Le Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau est arrivé!’ is a kind of slo­gan for an annu­al event —this young wine, under-appre­ci­at­ed the rest of the year, takes its star turn in a moment of fleet­ing triumph…before it’s rel­e­gat­ed to the nether regions of the wine cel­lar to work on itself a bit. 

Since the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tu­ry when the tra­di­tion first bust­ed out, peo­ple all around France have been mark­ing the occa­sion by pop­ping bot­tles of this often flir­ta­tious red wine for low-key cel­e­bra­tions at mid­night. Uncork­ing bot­tles of this (newish, for such an old cul­ture) rit­u­al, wine caves (and joe-blow din­ing rooms across the coun­try, as well) fill with the rich and play­ful aro­ma of berries and the ting of glass­es clinking. 

Parisian bars and wine cel­lars join in the fun, offer­ing spe­cial tast­ings of cheese and char­cu­terie to accom­pa­ny the juicy reds they are pour­ing. In the right place (we love Cave Vino Sapi­ens, in — of all places — the shad­ow of the Eif­fel Tow­er!), you can expe­ri­ence a cheer­ful vibe among dark win­ter streets, usu­al­ly slick with a bit of rain, in the City of Light. 

Beware the banana? 

Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is cursed the rest of the year with the rep­u­ta­tion of being…aver­age. The ortho­doxy is that one must go for the most expen­sive ones to be safe. And avoid what’s known as ‘banana nose’, which purists insist means that this Beau­jo­lais is plonk.

How about the backstory?

Typ­i­cal­ly, every year, all French wine-pro­duc­ing regions announce their big cel­e­bra­tion at the end of their annu­al har­vest. (It’s kind of in our DNA here.) Alsace, Bor­deaux, Cham­pagne, Provence and oth­er wine regions offi­cial­ly close the sea­son in ear­ly Octo­ber. (Although the cli­mate change has made this inch ear­li­er and ear­li­er the past few years with some har­vests hap­pen­ing in ear­ly September…)

Let the carousing begin…

This grand pro­ces­sion peaks dur­ing the ‘Fêtes des Ven­dan­ges— a fes­ti­val span­ning a long fall week­end when the Mont­martre dis­trict turns into a crowd­ed wine and food mar­ket, where char­cutiers put on a sausage-fest unlike any you’ve expe­ri­enced, and wine­mak­ers intro­duce vis­i­tors to their cuvée, which means the best qual­i­ty wine. 

But — like every­thing relat­ed to French wine, don’t sweat it — if you don’t have time to vis­it us in Octo­ber, we’ve got anoth­er cel­e­bra­tion just round­ing the cor­ner anyway. 

So…the descrip­tion of Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau may sound dis­ap­point­ing — and it’s his­tor­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with low-qual­i­ty wine…

But, like a polyamorous Facebook status, ‘It’s Complicated…’

Made with Gamay Noir grapes, Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is pro­duced with an accel­er­at­ed process called car­bon­ic mat­u­ra­tion, which skips some of the fun­da­men­tal stages of tra­di­tion­al wine production. 

This process brings forth a frisky, pur­ple wine with low tan­nins, a low alco­hol lev­el (11%) and a fresh nose of rasp­ber­ries, cher­ries, peach­es, and occa­sion­al­ly bananas. (BANANAS! Sacre­bleu…) The French are divid­ed about this bananas thing…some think it means the wine is undrink­able. An yet, here we are. 

Can such a bright palette of fla­vors and high lev­el of com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with the usu­al Frenchy accom­pa­ni­ments of pork char­cu­terie and a ‘planche’ of utter­ly con­vinc­ing cheeses from prac­ti­cal­ly every ani­mal slow (and insoumise) enough to get roped into dairy pro­duc­tion by our ances­tors, trump the (sup­posed) poor qual­i­ty of the wine itself? 

It’s is up to you to decide. As we say in our Secret Cel­lar Wine and Cheese Pair­ing Par­ty: the only ‘good’ wine is a wine you like. Snob­bery is not in style. Except in pas­try. We are still judg­men­tal as hell there. 

Some wine­mak­ers have proven them­selves more than capa­ble of bring­ing forth a Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau worth the par­ty. Our own wine research team (yeah, it’s a thing — from Pas­try to Wine we are THERE FOR IT) here at
PARIS > D E F I N E D MAGAZINE (the cap­i­tal let­ters make us look seri­ous, right? That’s the I D E A) has been hot on the trail. Elis­a­beth Samok­ish — while still a kind of a Beau­jo­lais Nou­velle her­self, as she’s a light­ly effer­ves­cent and pas­sion­ate first-year stu­dent som­me­li­er — has weighed in on the sub­ject and has a few rec­om­men­da­tions for bot­tles for your at-home French festivities:

  • George Duboeuf
  • Domaine Lacon­dem­ine 
  • Domaine de la Place

Those who do not know history are doomed to drink it

If this wine is so con­tro­ver­sial, then why is it so pop­u­lar? The answer is quite sim­ple — low price and good mar­ket­ing. When World War II was over, most wine pro­duc­ers were in bad shape, but peo­ple nev­er gave up con­sum­ing alco­hol, even though they were most­ly broke as hell. Booze finds a way…?

Thus, young Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau, matured for a mere six weeks (!) was an alter­na­tive to both sobri­ety and bet­ter wine, help­ing wine pro­duc­ers recov­er from their loss­es after the eco­nom­ic shock of war while sat­is­fy­ing bohemi­an Parisians with drink­able, cheap, (and, at times, chic) wine. Wine pro­duc­tion had up until then been a time-con­sum­ing process. You can say Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau was a dis­rupter. (Thanks Obama. )

It’s impos­si­ble to make good wine in one week (espe­cial­ly if you are look­ing for the qual­i­ty label ‘AOC’ — Appel­la­tion d’O­rig­ine Con­trolée, which trans­lates as ‘We Know Exact­ly Where This Comes From and That Means A Lot To Us’).

Nor­mal­ly back in 1951, all bot­tles bear­ing the label AOC could be sold no ear­li­er than Decem­ber 15th. But, as every­one was in dire straits, wine­mak­ers and the French gov­ern­ment found a com­pro­mise. Beau­jo­lais is a region well-known for its plen­ti­ful har­vests and upper-crust wine fam­i­lies and vin­tages, so hav­ing a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion came in handy when ask­ing for an ~ahem~ EXCEPTION to the rules — reg­u­lat­ing what was, and was­n’t wine. The rules were bent ever so gen­tly, (ever so French­ly).

Under ~gen­tle~ pres­sure from the Beau­jo­lais Wine­grow­ers’ Union, the author­i­ties allowed the newest bot­tles to be sold as ear­ly as Novem­ber. Et voilà !

From that moment on, Parisians, enchant­ed by Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau, were in a race for the long-await­ed liba­tion. Georges Duboeuf (a major French pro­duc­er who car­ried out a mar­ket­ing cam­paign for Thanks­giv­ing day) empha­sized that at 12:01 am, « all wine dis­trib­u­tors are rush­ing around the world to deliv­er Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau. »

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Indeco­rous Cul­turevore and Poly­chrome Chow Vir­tu­osa Kat Walk­er likes nice things.

When she’s not writ­ing about crois­sants, love, cul­ture, and lov­able, sexy crois­sants, she is a gonzo per­for­mance artist whip­ping up a (usu­al­ly) polit­i­cal ruckus.

In a bid for your atten­tion and approval she writes things here and man­ages this unruly tribe of Parisians endeav­or­ing to bring you what Paris­ing is real­ly about.

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