La Beaujolais Nouveau

The third Thursday in November wine shops all over France celebrate the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a fruity Gamay wine that is meant to be drunk young, and to celebrate, the young get drunk.

As Alistair Bland writes in The Smithsonian,  “The unlikely rise to fame of a tepid and unimposing wine could be one of the most heartening stories in the world of noble French vines, stodgy oenophiles and glittering stemware. For Beaujolais Nouveau, the fruity pinkish-red wine of eastern France’s Beaujolais region, has gone from cheap plonk to superstar (though still cheap) and, every third Thursday in November, drives millions of French into revelry the very second the new vintage is released.”

But why?  As the blog InToWine explains, “Beaujolais Nouveau began as a local phenomenon in the local bars, cafes, and bistros of Beaujolais and Lyons. Each fall the new Beaujolais would arrive with much fanfare. In pitchers filled from the growers barrels, wine was drunk by an eager population. It was wine made fast to drink while the better Beaujolais was taking a more leisurely course. Eventually, the government stepped into regulate the sale of all this quickly transported, free-flowing wine.”

It’s actually illegal to sell it before its time, as I found out writing the blog post, Beaujolais Nouveau: Illegal Wine and Forbidden Cheese.  As with so many well-meaning laws in France, the restrictions totally backfired, only serving to make the wine more sought-after, until Beaujolais Nouveau exploded past France into a worldwide phenomenon. Japan is the largest importer, followed by Germany, then America, where Georges Dubouef imports over 2 million colorfully labeled bottles each year just in time for Thanksgiving.

Most local wine shops will be offering samples today, but really, the best place in Nice to experience Beaujolais Nouveau is the family owned Cave Caprioglio in the Old Town, where they used to pull out all the stops with music, food, and a party that overflowed out into the street… until the local police party poopers put a stop to it. But even without the fanfare, it’s still the best place to try Beaujolais Nouveau.

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