Is Beaujolais Nouveau Dead?
Indiana Jones had his Ark, Allan Quartermain his Lost City and I always had my Beaujolais Nouveau. Like all great explorers, on the third Thursday of every November I would spend the evening trekking to local liquor stores, climbing the highest peaks to the most gourmet wine shops. I’ve walked the narrowest dark lit alleyways of North Jersey in search of the young holiday wine. The thrill of finding a never-before-seen bottle from a different vineyard was just as intoxicating as the drink itself. But sadly, much like Professor Henry Jones Jr’s journeys are soon coming to an end, I fear that my annual tradition of shopping for the nubile wine is slowly dying.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a vibrant red wine from the region directly South of Burgundy France and, written to be heard in the voice of James William Bottomtooth III, a vin de primeur. Regulated by strict French decree, it is released exactly at 12:01 am on the third Thursday of the penultimate month of the year. On the eve of its release, locals wait at their neighborhood bistros and restaurants for the strike of midnight. Almost in unison with the church bell chimes, casks are cracked open and glasses of the grape juice flow until the early morning. Depending on the vineyard, the inexpensive, unassuming wine is known for its faint flavors of raspberry, cherry and cranberry making it the perfect complement to an American Thanksgiving dinner, a truly happy coincidence.
Every year over 120 small festivals are held throughout Beaujolais celebrating the year’s Nouveau including the famous Les Sarmentelles de Beaujeu, a five-night party with daily tastings, live music, vineyard tours and family entertainment.
Georges Duboeuf and his Contributions
According to winemaker Maison Joseph Drouhin, they were the first to bottle Beaujolais Nouveau in the early fifties. This caused the wine's popularity to extend outside the region for the first time. By the Sixties, the demand for the bottles had skyrocketed. Bottlers competed with one another to get their product to cities like Lyon, Paris and London as fast as possible. SpiritedBiz.com credits a young winemaker Georges Duboeuf with converting an old Renault truck into a mobile machine. Georges also proved to be a marketing genius and is credited with bringing the wine to the US. His flamboyant posters and displays announcing “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé” and over the top bottle labels made everyone take notice. Despite it being an inexpensive wine, Georges Duboeuf had a panache that appealed to the "it crowd." He used hot air balloons and bullet trains. He even employed Formula One racers to speed cases to Paris overnight. Bottles were often flown on the Supersonic Concorde to reach New York City in time for the midnight unveiling. Demand outgrew supply which added to the excitement.
This has been part of my holiday tradition for over 2 decades. At one time in the early aughts of the twenty-first century, I was able to find over 9 different labels from 7 different liquor stores, each one with a unique taste. I've lived through good harvests and weathered through drought plagued seasons. I've introduced friends and family and even documented my first experience for another blog. During the pandemic however, bottles were harder to find. There were no giant displays, no lavish cheese and wine tastings and only a few offerings. I wrote it off to circumstance. This year however, I am not so sure. Despite hitting to all my normal spots, I was only able to find 2 brands. It's a shame too because this year's vintage is delicious with strong fruity undertones. If you've never tried Beaujolais Nouveau, get out there and pick up a bottle of Georges Duboeuf while there's still time. I think you will be happy with your $14.99 investment. And if you happen to find another brand, give me a shout.