It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time and We are There for It
Let’s meet the new kids on the block…
As the third Thursday of November, approaches, we in Paris begin 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 Nouveauis here!). By nid 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. So we are so ready for a wine-flavored distractions.
Because 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 average 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 (as if they need an excuse), 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. This remains a divisive topic.
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?
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:
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. )
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. »
Indecorous Culturevore and Polychrome Chow Virtuosa Kat Walker likes nice things.
She once went to a job interview for that was supposed to be for sales but was actually for prostitution (the high-class version, she hopes lol) at a fancy hotel in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower (article coming soon) and, another time interviewed for a position as a phone psychic.
She passed both with flying colors. However she declined the human trafficking position but stuck around longer than she should have to be able to write about it. (Are you not entertained?)
As for the telephone psychic gig, she only lasted one day, even though the pay was excellent. Wooooooo…..She sees you subscribing to our weekly PARIS RIGHT NOW dispatch . There is also a man in your future.
Now she is settled in as your Editor-in-Mischief here, leading the charge to not take Paris so damn seriously…let’s frolic a bit, non?
She writes fast and without prudence so if you enjoy this type of thing, editors aren’t free so here is le Patreon
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. Her rabble rousing has provoked the attention of various public forums, like the time she appeared in the movie The Yes Men Fix the Worldas Russian journalist Laika Gagarina or was featured in RollCall’s Heard on the Hill for her mockery of the U.S. senate. Other efforts have landed her in the Le Nouvel Observateur, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Reader.
In other places and other lives, the actual live guy who played Ross on Friends came to see her show at a NYC gallery.
She has never had a weirder lunch than that one when an FBI informant offered to kill her business partner for her.
She declined (phew) and that’s why she’s here, freely- and un-jailed-ly writing about croissants and perverts and the Eiffel Tower (in that order, usually) for PARIS > DEFINED MAGAZINE.
Her perfectly impossible dinner in Paris would be at Pierre Sang on Gambey (the waiter chooses the wine) with Genesis P. Orridge, Napoleon Bonaparte (he picks up the tab and the waiter knows this in advance when picking wines), Christopher Hitchens, Anais Nin, and Ketamine in attendance. Drinks after at le17 but back in time, like 2017.
Her favorite French word is ‘bruit’ but only when a hot girl says it slowly.
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.
Subscribe HERE to the P > D newsletter for a weekly dose of her, and the rest of the rambunctious and perfectly depraved gals’ trenchant and thought-provoking opinions. Or tune in to their highbrow culture commentary and bike riding through Paris on PARIS » D E F I N E D TV.
If you are mashing out a message to warn her of her crimes against grammar and punctuation save your time because she knows, she knows.