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?


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.


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