Tom Jones of the Whalley Wine Shop explains the tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau Day
This is marked in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m., just weeks after the wine's grapes have been harvested.
Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” Yes its finally here, the 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau Day – a day to celebrate the fun, joyful and slightly bonkers side of wine!
Since 1985 the third Thursday in November has been officially declared as Beaujolais Nouveau Day with the wine traditionally released for sale at a minute past midnight on this day. It fell this year on November 19, and it could not be more perfectly timed. With the weather cold, wet and miserable, and the days getting shorter and darker, ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’ shines out like a joyous wine beacon. But what’s it all about?
For centuries the vineyard workers and restaurants in wine producing areas would celebrate the end of vintage by quaffing very young, just produced, red wines. The wines from Beaujolais particularly suitable because of the way they are made.
All Beaujolais reds are made from the ‘Gamay’ grape which predominantly makes a light, juicy and very fruity style of red with light soft tannins and no Oak. The Nouveau style of wines also go through a process called ‘carbonic maceration’ where the juice basically ferments inside the grape rather than being crushed, and so a lot less tannin is transferred as the juice spends less time in contact with the red skins.
The wines had grown in popularity in the 1950s when a change in the law let them be sold in November instead of December, but it was in the 1960s and 70s that the craze for Beaujolais Nouveau really took off with a number of automobile clubs latching on and a ‘race’ to be the first to return to their home country with that year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. This in turn sparked an interest from restaurants, bars, the press and the general public.
Over time the popularity of the races diminished, and wineries began releasing the wines to other countries ahead of the date to allow them to sell on the third Thursday in their own markets. With this and stricter driving laws in France a little of the glory and glamour of the ‘Beaujolais Run’ has faded into the past.
However, that does not mean the day should not still be celebrated! On Thursday I headed home (in the dark and in the rain) and as I came into the kitchen the smell of sausages, mash and gravy came wafting out, paired with a bottle of the brand new Beaujolais Nouveau 2020, one of the most enjoyable bottles I have had for months. The enjoyment in this instance does not have to come from the quality of the wines. Nobody is trying to convince you these are the ‘best’ or most complicated wines you will ever have. They are simply not. They are light, fun, juicy, gluggable and supremely enjoyable for their naivety. They celebrate the less serious side of wine, they do not need over analysing or pontificating about… they just need enjoying. And I certainly enjoyed mine.
Cave Oedoria Beaujolais Nouveau 2020 12.5% - £9.99 a bottle: A collaboration from 2 large co-ops that produces a consistently reliable, good quality and well price Nouveau. Full of juicy cherry fruit on the nose with the telltale ‘bubblegum’ note just in the background, a lovely purple colour and bursting full of fruit. Soft tannins but this vintage has a little more body than usual and is a deliciously enjoyable wine.
By continuing to bang the drum for Beaujolais Nouveau Day we as a shop might encourage more people to drink the other wines from Beaujolais all year round and not just once a year. The ‘normal’ Beaujolais wines on the other hand CAN be serious, complicated and offer exceptional quality. The 10 best villages are called the ‘crus’ and include names like Fleurie, and Brouilly. Gamay is super trendy and the wines being produced are of exceptional quality and are well worth discovering.
Check out the following wines from the shop if you want to explore:
Vina Butiner ‘Sulphite free’ Beaujolais villages 2018, 13.5% - £10.99
Louis Latour ‘Les Garans’ Fleurie 2018, 13% - £17.99
Chateau Thivin ‘les Sept Vignes’ Cote de Brouilly 2016, 13.5% - £19.99
Cuvee Lucile-Maud Moulin-a-vent 2013, 13% - £22.99