Le Beaujolais Nouveau

Question #1:

Le Beaujolais Nouveau is:

  • A) the third Thursday of November
  • B) really mediocre red wine
  • C) a trick the French play on the rest of the world
  • D) a party at the kid’s school

Wong – the answer is…all of the above, let me explain.

A) The third Thursday in November has been the traditional day for the release of Beajolais Nouveau for a few decades now.  The choice of a Thursday, instead of a specific date in November, is assumed to be done in order to associate the release with a weekend.  The Beajolais Nouveau phenomenon really got kick-started in the 1980’s when one of the largest producers decided to add a bit of excitement to the release of this previously locally consumed low-quality wine: a race to Paris to see who could get their wine their first.  This then spread to other cities in France, then Europe, and on to the US, and eventually Asia.

B) Beajolais Nouveau truly is a  really mediocre red wine, partially by nature of the rules that they have put in place, and the hype that they have created.  Just by stating that a wine shall be ready by a certain date seems a bit odd, for an agriculturally dependant product. It would be like saying that you will sell your first apple pie made with apples from a certain valley on a certain date, every year.  No allowance for late rain, cool weather, freak storms, problems with harvest, dry spring…nope, if you will have the finished product ready by the Third Thursday in November – then you will have to harvest with enogh lead time to absolutely ensure that you have the wine ready by then.  This is now especialy true since they seemed to have succeeded in convincing many people into thinking that not only is this wine something worthwhile, but that drinking it on a certain day is even more so.  On top of that, apparently the rules that are in place for the actual fermentation (letting the smashed grapes sit and actually turn into wine)  of Beajolas is mandated to something like 3-10 Days…then bottled. That’s it. 

C) It would seem at first easy to criticize the French – until you realize they are in on the joke.  It seems easy to criticize them for creating a circumstance that in a way forces them to hinge their reputation on what has a very good chance of being an inferior product.  At first many seem ready to call their bluff: “But you know what?  It’s not even good!”  To which the French seem ready to reply “shhhhh.  C’est vrai. Mais don’t tell the others…especially the Japanese”  I read an article in Le Post  entitled: “Beaujolais nouveau : mais pourquoi est-il aussi mauvais ?”.  Basically: “Beaujolais nouveau: but why is it so bad?”  So it would seem that indeed they are well aware of this – they know what it really is.

Why ‘especially the Japanese?“ – well it would seem they are by far the largest importer of this wine. Estimates are that Six Million bottles are sent there every year. The vast majority it would seem – are express-air shipped. They retail there for almost 10x the 3Euros they fetch here in France. Plus – you can count on the Japanese for ‘adaptations’ like this:uhhh.seriously?

wow.

In Japan it is apparently the most popular wine, and there is even a spa where one can bathe in the stuff.  <insert your own joke here re: wine finally having some body in it>

D) Friday night was the Soiree Beajolas at our kids school. It was sort of like a parent-association thing- dinner and an auction -to raise money for the school.  We were told prior to the evening: "don’t worry – you only have to have one glass of Beajolais, and then they bring out the good stuff”  Well unfortunately, that did not turn out to be true this year, but it was a pretty interesting evening.  There was a live auction, but we didn’t buy either the fois gras, the diving vest, the weekend at someone’s vacation house, nor any of the other many fine things that were up for grab.  It was in the cantine at the school – and for a small school, there were quite a few people there.

Le Beaujolais Nouveau

Question #1:

Le Beaujolais Nouveau is:

  • A) the third Thursday of November
  • B) really mediocre red wine
  • C) a trick the French play on the rest of the world
  • D) a party at the kid’s school

Wong – the answer is…all of the above, let me explain.

A) The third Thursday in November has been the traditional day for the release of Beajolais Nouveau for a few decades now.  The choice of a Thursday, instead of a specific date in November, is assumed to be done in order to associate the release with a weekend.  The Beajolais Nouveau phenomenon really got kick-started in the 1980’s when one of the largest producers decided to add a bit of excitement to the release of this previously locally consumed low-quality wine: a race to Paris to see who could get their wine their first.  This then spread to other cities in France, then Europe, and on to the US, and eventually Asia.

B) Beajolais Nouveau truly is a  really mediocre red wine, partially by nature of the rules that they have put in place, and the hype that they have created.  Just by stating that a wine shall be ready by a certain date seems a bit odd, for an agriculturally dependant product. It would be like saying that you will sell your first apple pie made with apples from a certain valley on a certain date, every year.  No allowance for late rain, cool weather, freak storms, problems with harvest, dry spring…nope, if you will have the finished product ready by the Third Thursday in November – then you will have to harvest with enogh lead time to absolutely ensure that you have the wine ready by then.  This is now especialy true since they seemed to have succeeded in convincing many people into thinking that not only is this wine something worthwhile, but that drinking it on a certain day is even more so.  On top of that, apparently the rules that are in place for the actual fermentation (letting the smashed grapes sit and actually turn into wine)  of Beajolas is mandated to something like 3-10 Days…then bottled. That’s it. 

C) It would seem at first easy to criticize the French – until you realize they are in on the joke.  It seems easy to criticize them for creating a circumstance that in a way forces them to hinge their reputation on what has a very good chance of being an inferior product.  At first many seem ready to call their bluff: “But you know what?  It’s not even good!”  To which the French seem ready to reply “shhhhh.  C’est vrai. Mais don’t tell the others…especially the Japanese”  I read an article in Le Post  entitled: “Beaujolais nouveau : mais pourquoi est-il aussi mauvais ?”.  Basically: “Beaujolais nouveau: but why is it so bad?”  So it would seem that indeed they are well aware of this – they know what it really is.

Why ‘especially the Japanese?” – well it would seem they are by far the largest importer of this wine. Estimates are that Six Million bottles are sent there every year. The vast majority it would seem – are express-air shipped. They retail there for almost 10x the 3Euros they fetch here in France. Plus – you can count on the Japanese for ‘adaptations’ like this:uhhh.seriously?

wow.

In Japan it is apparently the most popular wine, and there is even a spa where one can bathe in the stuff.  

D) Friday night was the Soiree Beajolas at our kids school. It was sort of like a parent-association thing- dinner and an auction -to raise money for the school.  We were told prior to the evening: “don’t worry – you only have to have one glass of Beajolais, and then they bring out the good stuff”  Well unfortunately, that did not turn out to be true this year, but it was a pretty interesting evening.  There was a live auction, but we didn’t buy either the fois gras, the diving vest, the weekend at someone’s vacation house, nor any of the other many fine things that were up for grab.  It was in the cantine at the school – and for a small school, there were quite a few people there.

La Grande Chartreuse {pt. II}

We continued on, along the winding road that shadowed the river at the bottom of the gorge until we got to the grounds of the museum and had our pic-nic. It should be noted that a French grocery store is a great palce to get everything that you need to get a real pic-nic going. [I assume that’s what the small wine bottles were made for]

We found a bench at the end of a tree-lined path, right between some high-alpine pastures and had our lunch.  A well balanced meal that had representation from each of the major (french) food groups: bread, cheese, wine & chocolate.

When we finished our lunch we wandered over to the museum.  The museum had of course been one of the two main sites of the day – but since the distillary was closed – was now more the main point of the day trip.

Ferme pour l’hiver

Closed for the winter.

hmm.

“This seems like a great time to go for a hike up and around the actual monastery.”

The walk was quite a bit of uphill – especially for the kids – and especially since we had already hiked around the gorge  just before lunch.  They were great – for the most part – and kept on going.  We walked up to the massive walled compound, then up above the monastery – in order to get a bit of a view down into it.  Then we took a hiking trail through the forrest that wrapped around and eventually headed back down to the car.  It was a nice day out, the views fantastic, and it was a great day of  hiking.

The sun was just dropping behind the mountains as we got back to the car and started to head back.  On our way home we took a more direct route over a pass, and directly down to Grenoble, then across the valley, and back up the other side to go home. Near the top of that pass the kids saw what was for them, the most exciting and memorable thing of the day.  Not the 900 year old stone arch bridge, not the rocky peaks of the Massif de la Chartresue, not the massive monastary in a high-alpine valley, not the micro-climate of lush fauna at the bottom of the gorge….Nope – a bit of snow on the side of the road.  hmm

La Grande Chartreuse {pt. II}

We continued on, along the winding road that shadowed the river at the bottom of the gorge until we got to the grounds of the museum and had our pic-nic. It should be noted that a French grocery store is a great palce to get everything that you need to get a real pic-nic going. [I assume that’s what the small wine bottles were made for]

We found a bench at the end of a tree-lined path, right between some high-alpine pastures and had our lunch.  A well balanced meal that had representation from each of the major (french) food groups: bread, cheese, wine & chocolate.

When we finished our lunch we wandered over to the museum.  The museum had of course been one of the two main sites of the day – but since the distillary was closed – was now more the main point of the day trip.

Ferme pour l’hiver

Closed for the winter.

hmm.

“This seems like a great time to go for a hike up and around the actual monastery.”

The walk was quite a bit of uphill – especially for the kids – and especially since we had already hiked around the gorge  just before lunch.  They were great – for the most part – and kept on going.  We walked up to the massive walled compound, then up above the monastery – in order to get a bit of a view down into it.  Then we took a hiking trail through the forrest that wrapped around and eventually headed back down to the car.  It was a nice day out, the views fantastic, and it was a great day of  hiking.

The sun was just dropping behind the mountains as we got back to the car and started to head back.  On our way home we took a more direct route over a pass, and directly down to Grenoble, then across the valley, and back up the other side to go home. Near the top of that pass the kids saw what was for them, the most exciting and memorable thing of the day.  Not the 900 year old stone arch bridge, not the rocky peaks of the Massif de la Chartresue, not the massive monastary in a high-alpine valley, not the micro-climate of lush fauna at the bottom of the gorge….Nope – a bit of snow on the side of the road.  hmm

La Grande Chartreuse  {pt. I}

The colour chartreuse  takes it’s name from the Chartreuse liquor, which is made by the Carthusian monks, who are so named because St Bruno started the order in the Chartreuse mountains about 900 years ago.

Well those mountains just so happen to be just across the valley from us – so last week we decided to have a little outing there. 

We thought we’d start with a visit to the Chartreuse distillary – where the infamous liquer is made. There’s a 3D movie, and all kinds of cool stuff that we thought the kids would like.  Sorry – it’s closed on weekends between Tousaint and April.  Of course.

So we picked up the makings for a pic-nic and headed up towards the second part of our outing – the original monistary of the Carthusian order- le monastère de la GrandeChartreuse.

It is a beutiful (often frightening) drive up a narrow gorge to get there -and along the way we saw a trail that headed off down along the river at the bottom.  

We stopped and wandered along for a while, walking over some nice brand-new well constructed bridges, hanging on to some cables along slippery rock steps, and gong past a very small 900 year old stone bridge.

It was well past 1 when we got back to the car so we headed up to the Musee de la Grande Chartreuse for a quick pic-nic – and then for a visit…