A Celebration of Wine on the third Thursday of November
My husband and I celebrated the arrival of BJN in Paris a few years ago when we lived there. Even at our small local bistro by the train station in the Paris suburb of Lozere, “le Beaujo” was a major event and all the locals thoroughly enjoyed themselves—and the wine, the special snacks and the typical BJN meal.
Before the great day, many stores advertised that Beaujolais was coming soon, and on the great day signs sprouted all over, “Le Beaujolais est arrive!” (Beaujolais has arrived).
Wine shops, specialty delis, and even supermarkets carried many different Beaujolais wines—many bottles with colorful and/or fanciful labels. Initially we were a bit skeptical but were soon won over—what’s not to like about this young, refreshing wine?
It was such an interesting experience that we decided to start a new tradition here in our own neck of the woods in the USA. We had one party here some years ago and decided to do it again this year, Saturday November 17th
Great fun was had by all, I believe. So, next year on the third Thursday in November, it would be a fun experience for you to try Beaujolais Nouveau. If you happen to be in France you won’t be able to miss it, as it’s celebrated all over the country.
So, what is this Beaujolais Nouveau, or BJN, or “le Beaujo”?
Every year at one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November, the first bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are opened in France and thousands of eager people begin drinking this young wine from the Burgundy region of France. This special party, which has now become international, began as a local tradition in Lyon. Bars and Bistros in the area would receive barrels of the wine, which had just been harvested and crushed in September, from local growers. Patrons loved the light, fruity taste and there are about 120 festivals to honor the arrival of this enticing young wine in the BJ region alone, not to mention throughout France.
Due to the marketing and promotion efforts of Georges Deboeuf in the 1960s this local tradition has become a worldwide celebration of this unique French wine. And every year, we can still get Georges Deboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau wines throughout the world. A marketing triumph!
The region it comes from is small and located just north of Lyon, France’s third largest city. The grape growing area is just 34 miles long from north to south and 7-9 miles wide. In this tiny area, there are over 4,000 grape growers, growing principally the gamay grape. By law, the grapes for Beaujolais must be picked by hand. The wine gets its taste from a unique fermentation process called carbonic maceration, which means the grapes are pressed and crushed in large vats that are then filled with carbonic dioxide and yeast. They are not allowed to remain in the vats very long and this assures that only a minimum amount of tannin is released into the wine. After only 7 weeks the wine is ready to be bottled and shipped.
The arrival of “le Beaujo” is really just an excuse to get together with friends and have some fun. If you can’t stay up till midnight on Wednesday, don’t worry. People continue with the tasting on Thursday, and Friday, and the weekend. And it’s common to host a BJN party at home. It’s a young wine, so one doesn’t need to get too serious at this party. After all, until the first bottle is uncorked, no one quite knows what to expect from it—so be prepared for surprises!
The wine has a light purplish-red color with a fresh, fruity taste and should be served slightly cool. This is definitely not a swirl, sniff and sip wine. In fact, the charm lies in the fact that you don’t have to pay it any special homage, you just have to enjoy it, like an early present. It’s festive, but casual.
The Food: In Lyon, “le beaujo” is served with simple country dishes like sausage and potatoes. In general, its light fruitiness goes best with mild flavors that complement the wine rather than compete with it. Usually for the party, the French ask everyone to bring a bottle of BJN and a plate to share. Some of the typical foods are:
For Appetizers: strong>Gougeres (airy cheese puffs), Pork patties (pork and chestnut patties wrapped in bacon)
For Salads: Herring and potato, Ham and cheese with walnut vinaigrette
For Entrees: Saucisson chaud pomme a l’huile (warm poached sausage with potato salad); Pommes de terre Comtoises (Potato gratin with ham and cheese); Saucisson Paysanne (sausage with a white wine and mustard sauce); A plate of various sausages
For the Cheese Course (served with French baguettes): Small goat cheeses (crottins), Camembert, Brie, Morbier
For Dessert: Pears in red wine, Apple cake
Have fun and enjoy!