It’s that time of year when wine lovers and wine snobs clash heads over a bottle of the red stuff. That’s right – for many, the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau is a much-loved custom; for others, the wine simply isn’t up to muster.
The Beaujolais Nouveau tradition began in 1951 and reached its height of popularity between the 1960s and 1990s, with celebrations held across France and around the globe.
But what exactly is it? Made from Gamay, the key grape of the Beaujolais region, this red wine is fermented for a matter of weeks before being bottled and sold. The wine is vinified using carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration which speeds up the process, meaning it can be on the shelves within three months of being snipped from the vines.
It began quite simply as a way of celebrating the end of the harvest, a cheap and cheerful tipple drunk by local vineyard workers to celebrate, literally, the fruits of their labours.
Then in 1937, Beaujolais gained AOC status and new, stricter rules meant it could only be sold after a certain date. Spying a nifty marketing opportunity, winegrowers in the area began marketing this unremarkable plonk as a special event, devising a race to Paris with the first bottles of the year.
Since 1985, the third Thursday of November has been the designated release date and this year, more than six million bottles are expected to be snapped up around the world. So look out for the 2023 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau on November 16. A simple wine with strawberry and cherry aromas, it’s also extremely pleasant served chilled. Santé!