The long-awaited release of each year's Beaujolais Nouveau comes at the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday in November, which will be November 16th in 2017. This is a glorious time to visit this part of France as so many celebrations are taking place in towns and villages and in many restaurants. It's easy to join in the fun as everyone is celebrating the same thing.
If you’re not in France, you can officially buy the wine at 12.01am on the day of release. to make this possible, it's shipped earlier and held in bonded warehouses until that time. It all adds to the fun.
What is Beaujolais Nouveau?
Beaujolais Nouveau is produced from the Gamay grape and should be drunk young and certainly by the following May after the harvest. If it's a very good vintage, the wine can be drunk until the following harvest in September or October. It should also be drunk chilled. It's a wine for light meals, not regarded by wine buffs as a great wine, but it's very quaffable. It was first produced in the early 19th century as a lightweight wine sent to the well known bouchons of Lyon. It was also seen as a way of celebrating the end of the harvest, to be drunk immediately.
A little later the idea of the race became fashionable. Restaurants in Paris sent vehicles to pick up the first of the wines and race back to so they could be the first to put the sign Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé (Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!) in the window and serve the young and fruity wine to all comers. By the 1970s this was a national event and the idea spread around Europe in the 1980s, particularly to the United Kingdom, then to North America and in the 1990s to Asia.
Today the celebration is no longer such a big deal and has generally gone out of favour outside France, but still it’s worth buying the wine and serving it to your friends as soon as it appears.
The refreshing young wine is produced in the Beaujolais region, 30 kilometers northeast of Lyon. The region is 34 miles long from north to south and around 7 to 9 miles wide. Nearly 4,000 vineyards produce the 12 officially designated types of Beaujolais known as AOCs (Apellation d'Origine Controlee). The different types of Beaujolais range from the good vintage wines like Chiroubles, Fleurie and Côte de Brouilly to the more modest Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.
Festivals Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau
There are at least 100 festivals to honour the arrival of this enticing young wine in the Beaujolais region alone, not to mention throughout France and across the globe.
As capital of the Beaujolais region, it’s fitting that Lyon should be the best place to celebrate the new wine. It takes place on November 16th and 17th, 2017 on the Place des Terreaux from 8pm. Organised by the young wine producers, there are tastings, feasts, street theatre and events, a firework show and more from 6pm to 10pm. And check out all the great bouchons (local restaurants in Lyon)'; they are likely to be putting on a show. Lyon is, after all, the gastronomic capital of France.
- Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations in Lyon
More about Lyon
Festivals in the Beaujolais Region
- The small village of Beaujeau just north west of Villefrance-sur-Saône has its Sarmentelles festival, which begins each year at 5 pm the day before the wine's release. It features a tasting of the region's wines, followed by a torchlit procession and the release of that year's Beaujolais Nouveau. The festivities continue through the weekend. Beaujeau is the historic capital of the Beaujolais region. November 18th to 22nd 2015. Information on the Festival.
- Tarare just south east of Villefrance-sur-Saône hosts La Fete de la Beaujolais Gourmand. It starts the day before the release and runs through the weekend. The festival features five days showcasing gourmet food and wine. November 15th to 19th, 2017.
- Villefranche-sur-Saône does it annual celebration on the 21st November 2015.
- There’s even a Beaujolais Marathon and Half-Marathon for the truly dedicated.
Get more information on the Beaujolais days website; you'll be astonished by the variety, and quite frankly, where bonkers nonsense of some of the celebrations. It makes you realise that the French do love a good party.
Paris isn't exactly in the Beaujolais region by any stretch, but it has always celebrate the first wine harvest in the whole of France. Get in touch with the Paris Tourist Office for information on the many restaurants and bistros that celebrate the release.
Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations in the US
If you can't be in France for the much-anticipated midnight release, don't despair. There are several spots around the world that also celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais Nouveau as a Gift
One of my favorite traditions is to get some new Beaujolais Nouveau wine, and put it out on the table on Thanksgiving. It's also great to keep this light, young red wine around for Christmas festivities or even give bottles as holiday gifts.
For the Wine Lover
France, being one of the world's great producers of wine, has an astonishing number of wine routes and wine trails. It is one of the fastest growing part of French tourism, as each region puts together new programs each year.