Beaujolais Nouveau Day marks the uncorking of wine
The region of Beaujolais is 55km (34 miles) long from north to south and 11 to 15km (7 to 9 miles) wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France’s second largest city, Lyon.
10 fascinating facts you should know about the Beaujolais Nouveau wine:
- Beaujolais is a young wine that is released for sale every year on the third Thursday of November. On the stroke of midnight local producers shout: “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!”. The uncorking of the bottles in France is marked by parties, fireworks and other festivities that are celebrated across the globe
- The exception of Beaujolais wines is that only one grape variety is used to make them all: Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc (in recognition of its pale flesh). These particular grapes typically offer lighter, less complex characteristics—lots of red fruit and candied aromas.
- The single Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grape variety feeds the creation of 12 appellations: “Beaujolais” and “Beaujolais Villages”, sold for a large part as Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, and 10 Crus indexed by their terroirs.
- All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. These are the only vineyards, along with Champagne, where hand harvesting is mandatory.
- While certain California wineries may label their wine “Gamay Beaujolais” this is not the same grape variety as what is grown in France, and is quite different in taste and growing habits.
- There is a new movement of young, enthusiastic winemakers throughout the region producing exceptional wines, often using organically grown grapes.
- Over half of the wine is consumed in France (one third in Beaujolais), but other big markets include Japan, Germany and the US.
- The wine belongs to a category of wines called vins primeurs, meaning any wine sold in the same year it is harvested, not long after completing fermentation.
- The tradition of drinking wine so young dates from the 19th century, when “the year’s wine would complete its fermentation in cask while en route to nearby Lyons, where the new wine provided a direct link with village life in the Beaujolais hills”.
- Serve Beaujolais Nouveau slightly cool, at about 13°C (55°F). Low tannins and high acidity mean it can be served chilled making the wine more refreshing than if you serve it at room temperature.
Drink the French wine with
Gamay, being more rugged than pinot noir, can handle dishes with richer textures and spicier flavours. Coq au vin – in which chicken, lardons, red wine, morels, onions and herbs simmer away for hours to create a rich and decadent dish – is a great match for gamay.
The Beaujolais vineyards that stretch from Macon down towards Lyon capture Lyon’s gastronomic tradition. As well as wine, the region of Beaujolais is known for its fabulous food. The famed Paul Bocuse Restaurant is just minutes from the heart of Beaujolais, as is Georges Blanc’s eponymous culinary temple. These great restaurants have plenty of Beaujolais on their wine lists.
If you like gamay you may also like cabernet franc which is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire’s Chinon.