Ah, yes. Mid-November. While my compatriots are gearing up for Thanksgiving, here in France we're in the void between Toussaint and Christmas. Here we have our own manufactured-for-commerce event: The release of the Beaujolais Nouveau. You can't go to a restaurant or the supermarket without seeing, plastered everywhere, the "news" that "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" (The new Beaujolais has arrived!)
Like all things food in France, this event has a history - what began as a local tradition became codified. Beaujolais Nouveau, technically a primeur, or early release, was officially created in 1951 and in 1985 the current release date was set, at 12.01am on the third Thursday in November. The rest of the vintage is released the following year. However, vintners who produce Beaujolais Nouveau separate early on the wines for the primeur from the rest, which today accounts for more than half the region’s production, or 70 million bottles. The wine is very fruity, young and simple.
While acknowledging that the event is largely manufactured to sell (a lot) of wine, we still get into it. This year it was an excuse to get together on a Friday night, pop in a video for the kids, and drink and chat. Unfortunately, my own experience of drinking Beaujolais Nouveau has been lackluster with a less than stellar wine. So I set out to see if there was one that was actually enjoyable. What I found in the local wine shop was something surprisingly good - Les Griottes Primeur from Pierre-Marie Chermette's Les Vissoux parcel.
The wine seller told me that this wine is from an eco-responsible producer; that is, while it is not organic or bio-dynamic, the vintner has practices agriculture in wine-making in a careful way. You can learn more about his practices here. The wine was clearly a Beaujolais Nouveau but with some depth and subtlety that I had missed in past experiences. The five of us at the table, we all agreed – highly drinkable and surprisingly good for a Beaujolais Nouveau. Now, instead of dreading it, I can look forward to this little mini-celebration the week before Thanksgiving. Yay! Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!