Beaujolais Nouveau Day : Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé !

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is marked in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals. Under French law, the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, is released to the world at 12:01 a.m., just weeks after the wine's grapes have been harvested. Parties are held throughout the country and further afield to celebrate the first wine of the season. Over 60 million bottles make the trek to Paris for worldwide distribution. This is a young wine (only 6 weeks old), grown from the Gamay grape, and is fruity, light-bodied, and virtually tannin-free, making for an extremely easy-to-drink red wine. It is best served chilled to really bring the fruit forward and is a popular complement to Thanksgiving dinners, in part due to its annual release date and in part due to its food-friendly nature.

There are about 120 Beaujolais Nouveau related festivals held in the Beaujolais region. The most famous - Les Sarmentelles - is held in the town of Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Kicking off in the early evening the day before Beaujolais Nouveau, the five-day festival features wine tasting, live music and dancing. During the afternoon on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, a heated tent offers wine and a range of local foods for visitors to sample. In the evening, a torch lit parade honors the farmers that made the wine. Fireworks at midnight mark the release of the new wine, which is then drank until dawn.

All of Beaujolais Nouveau's Gamay grapes must come from France's Beaujolais region, and no other grapes are added to the wine. Wines made from Gamay grown outside of the Beaujolais region cannot be labeled Beaujolais nouveau. During harvest, the grapes are hand-picked. Unlike other wines, Beaujolais nouveau is produced using whole berry fermentation, also called carbonic maceration. This process keeps the fresh and fruity qualities of the wine without drawing out the bitter tannins found in the grape's skin. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young. Most vintages should be consumed by the following May after its release. However, in excellent vintages (such as 2000) the wine can live much longer and can be enjoyed until the next harvest rolls around.

Perhaps the most well-known producer of Beaujolais Nouveau is Les Vins Georges Duboeuf credited as one of the marketing geniuses behind the wine. In the 1950s, distributors began competing each year in a race to deliver the first bottles to Paris. In the 1970s, winemaker and businessman Georges Duboeuf, a major producer of Beaujolais Nouveau, publicized the wine and the associated festivities throughout France making it a national event. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the brand grew to international recognition when Georges introduced the local Beaujolais Nouveau tradition to a global audience starting with neighboring countries in Europe followed by North America and Asia. You can even attend an AFSF Beaujolais Nouveau event here in San Francisco by joining us to celebrate the new vintage with great food pairings of cold cuts and cheese.

But there is more to Beaujolais regional wines than just Beaujolais Nouveau.  There are plenty of terrific wines from this region in the center of France just north of the culinary capital of Lyon that are released later. Beaujolais Villages represents the second-tier wine from the region which are still fairly fruit-forward but are not produced via carbonic maceration and some have even seen a touch of oak. Beaujolais Villages should be consumed within two years. Beaujolais Cru embodies the best of the best from Beaujolais. The 10 Crus must come from one of ten quality-designated villages of Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St.-Amour. Bonne journée Beaujolais Nouveau et bonne dégustation des vins du Beaujolais !

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