I have been studying for the Certified Specialist of Wine exam and if you’ve ever studied for this exam or any other professional credential, I am sure you can agree that this type of in-depth study can suck the fun right of your wine life. I believe this is why I am so enamored with Beaujolais Nouveau Day. It is a celebration of wine in the simplest form.
Under French law Beaujolais Nouveau Day begins at 12:01 a.m. on the 3rd Thursday in November and it is the earliest that wines made from the current year’s harvest can be released – that’s right grapes picked a mere 6-7 weeks ago! How simple is that?
Beaujolais is a wine region in France that is approximately 34 miles long and 7 to 9 miles wide. The northern end of Beaujolais actually overlaps with the southern end of Burgundy. The wine is made from 100% Gamay grapes – all of which were harvested by hand. The only other region requiring hand picking of grapes is Champagne, so you see, the wine is made quickly but with care.
Speaking of how it is made, the reason the wine can be produced so quickly is due to a process called carbonic maceration where the entire grape is fermented whole. If you are curious about this process here is a great link to a very detailed, but easy to understand explanation:
The wine was historically made for local consumption while waiting for other Beaujolais wines to age. At some point getting the wine to market became a bit of race – an event that was anticipated throughout the year. It attracted so much attention that in the 1970’s it became a nationally recognized event in France. Eventually the rest of Europe became involved and by the 1990’s North America and Asia raced to get Beaujolais Nouveau to their markets as well.
The Beaujolais region has a classification hierarchy that includes 10 Grand Crus – indicating the best wine the region has to offer, a 2nd tier of classification call Beaujolais Villages and lastly, a region whose wines are simply labeled Beaujolais. The Beaujolais Nouveau grapes cannot come from the Grand Crus, only the Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais AOCs. While the 10 Grand Crus produce some wonderful wines, the Beaujolais Nouveau wines account for nearly ½ of the regions entire production – approximately 65 million bottles.
So we have gapes that were just picked, being made as fast as they can, with grapes from 2nd and 3rd tier classifications and you may be thinking this wine is not worth your time but I urge you to reconsider. The simplicity of this wine is charming and engaging and the wines are delightful. Light, fun, fruity and described by many as gulpable! Now if that doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will.
If your goal is to only drink cellarable wines that garner nods of approval in stuffy wine circles, then by all means steer clear of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it you want to celebrate with the French and get the first possible taste of this year’s harvest of Beaujolais, then you should definitely join in this fun tradition. For the entire weekend people all of the world will be lifting a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau with you – how fun is that?
If I still haven’t convinced you, let me quote the great Karen MacNeil as she sums up Beaujolais Nouveau wine in her book , The Wine Bible: “Drinking it gives you the smae kind of silly pleasure as eating cookie dough.”
So my wine drinking friends, don’t walk, run – the entire celebration is based on a race – to get a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau this weekend. Drink it now. In gulps. Hooray for Beaujolais! Cheers!