Beaujolais Day is a lot like Harry Potter’s mythical Platform 9 3/4. For starters, it’s quite easy to overlook, positioned between Halloween and Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of each November. Most people don’t even realize it’s there. But if you know what to look for, Beaujolais Day can be a gateway to something really special.
It’s the celebration of a unique, flavorful wine that can be enjoyed year round — and not just on this year’s Beaujolais Day, November 19. Ready to get started? Let’s begin at the beginning.
1. What Kind of Wine Is It?
The vast majority of Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay, a thin-skinned purplish-red grape that yields a wine with flavors and aromas of fresh raspberries, tart cherries (some folks even say tutti frutti), and pink and purple flowers. Some producers blend gamay with its relative, pinot noir, or aligoté, a white grape which also grows in the region. Beaujolais Nouveau is light, fruity and fresh, and meant to be consumed sooner rather than later, so drink up!
2. Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé! But from Where?
Like most French wines, Beaujolais wine takes its name from a region. In this case, a region called — yep, Beaujolais. The area — roughly located to the north of Lyon, France’s second-largest city (and culinary center) and at the southern tip of pricier Burgundy — has a rich winemaking tradition that dates back to ancient Rome. The Beaujolais wine-growing region has a warmer climate than much of Burgundy, which includes Chablis and the Côtes-d’Or. The results: fuller, more fruit-forward wines than those produced in the north.
3. Out with the Old, In with the Nouveau.
Technically, Beaujolais Day is called Beaujolais Nouveau Day. It’s named for the annual release of the latest vintage of wine from the appellation, or region of Beaujolais. Released just a months after harvest, the French call it — you guessed it — nouveau, which means new.
Back in the 1950s, winemakers from the region would compete to get their young wines to Paris first after 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of November — the date it became legal to sell them. The races garnered much public and media attention through the 1970s and 1980s. Although it is less popular today than in the past, Beaujolais Nouveau Day in France is still marked with fireworks, parades, and special events the world over (including here in the Garden State, but more on that later).
4. Where’s Duboeuf?
The name Georges Duboeuf is nearly synonymous with Beaujolais Nouveau. The company he founded, Les Vins de Georges Duboeuf, is the largest producer of Beaujolais wine. In fact, it was his marketing efforts in the 1960s that led to the widespread popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. However, Duboeuf is not the only game in town; there are hundreds of other producers throughout the region.
5. Rosé All Day? Beaujolais All Year
All Beaujolais is not Nouveau. More mature Beaujolais can be enjoyed year round. While still very fruity on the nose and palate, the characteristic raspberry and cherry notes in older Beaujolais develop more complexity and depth. The tannins are a little firmer, and slight wood aging adds hints of cinnamon, clove, and other baking spices to the overall experience.
6. Where’s the Party This Year?
Beaujolais Nouveau typically makes landfall in the US a few days after its French release, and several restaurants are planning to celebrate in style:
Ocean Place Resort and Spa, Long Branch
Beginning November 19, diners at Seaview Restaurant and Lounge can sample a French-inspired prix-fixe menu from Chef Peter Csikos, including Louis Jadot Beaujolais Nouveau. For reservations call 732-571-4000 or log onto OpenTable.com.
Verjus Restaurant, Maplewood.
Verjus Restaurant is planning a celebration on Friday, November 20. The restaurant will offer 2015 Les Grandes Coasses Beaujolais Nouveau and 2015 Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau to complement their $45 prix-fixe dinner menu. For more info or reservations, call 973-378-8990 or log onto log onto OpenTable.com.
Madeleine’s Petit Paris, Northvale.
This French-owned restaurant and catering venue will host its Beaujolais Nouveau dinner on Sunday, November 22, with a menu that highlights the culinary creations of Lyon, France’s second-largest city, culinary mecca, and neighbor to the Beaujolais region. For more info or reservations, call (201) 767-0063.
Hero (Top) Image Courtesy: Tony5188 / Wikimedia Commons