There are lots of important dates in November: Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving. But November 16 is the date circled in bright red on most wine-lovers calendars. Beaujolais winemakers begin shipping about 70 million bottles of its new release of Beaujolais Nouveau to the rest of the world at exactly one minute past minute on the third Thursday of every November, this year falling on November 16.
Translated as “Beaujolais New” in French, this unpretentious wine is made from Gamay grapes grown exclusively in the Beaujolais region just north of the French city of Lyon. It received the “Nouveau” moniker because it is pressed, fermented, bottled and shipped within weeks of the harvest.
The moment the new release is available, the French hoist signs announcing “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” (the new Beaujolais has arrived!), igniting a countrywide celebration. The tradition also provokes good-spirited competition among Beaujolais Nouveau producers who use whatever methods they can concoct to ensure that their bottles are the first to land in consumers’ hands.
Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young — within six months of its release — and is a fantastic starter red-wine. Using a unique method called “maceration carbonique,” Beaujolais winemakers end up with a wine that is light, fruity and immensely drinkable, and one that is best served slightly chilled.
Beaujolais Nouveau is also very affordable. Most bottles retail for under $10, remarkable considering that French law requires that all Gamay grapes are picked by hand.
For decades, Beaujolais Nouveau was drunk primarily in France while wine-lovers waited for the “better” Beaujolais to be produced. It is still a staple house wine in French bistros and cafes where it is served in jugs or carafes. Georges Duboeuf, an icon of the French wine world, is largely credited with making Beaujolais Nouveau the international sensation it is. Duboeuf is the world’s largest producer of Beaujolais, controlling about 10 percent of total production.
Beaujolais Nouveau is readily available at wine retailers throughout metro Detroit and will hit shelves soon after November 16. So gather some friends, crack open a bottle and raise your glass to the millions of other wine-lovers around the world who will be doing the same.