9 trivia tidbits about Beaujolais nouveau
November graces us with a wealth of wine holidays — among them International Beaujolais Nouveau Day, which celebrates the bright, bouncy, bubble gummy delights crafted from the gamay grape in the Beaujolais region of France. To mark the occasion, we’re rattling off nine pieces of trivia about Beaujolais and its most famous export.
So join us, mofo — perhaps alongside a glass from this bevvy of beauties. Let’s get started.
From humble local origins to global superstar
Before it popped onto the world stage, Beaujolais nouveau was made every year as a way to celebrate the close of harvest. Crafted by the region’s winemakers and meant to be drunk by vineyard workers and locals, the style eventually found its way into a few Parisian locales, and the establishment began clamouring earnestly for more.
Et le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé! Or so the original saying went. In other words, the Beaujolais nouveau craze got off to a cracking start.
And on the third Thursday in November...
Once the governing body behind Beaujolais’s wine laws (the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais) realised that public demand presented a lucrative opportunity, they made some changes designed to help them leverage the craze — namely that Beaujolais nouveau’s formal release date would be 12:01am on November 15.
The 12:01am part still stands today, but the specific day was later changed to the third Thursday in November.
A footrace to Paris
Part of the original Beaujolais nouveau marketing scheme? A literal race to the City of Love.
As part of their efforts to take advantage of market desire for the wine, the UIVB came up with the idea of a competition: who could get the first bottles of the new vintage to Paris the fastest?
As you might expect, the gimmick worked; the media loved the race (which eventually spread to other global markets), and it threw serious fuel onto the Beaujolais fire.
Gamay and only gamay
It certainly does a pretty somersault off the tongue, but what’s Beaujolais nouveau actually made of? It’s gamay’s time to shine, y’all. Sometimes referred to as gamay noir à jus blanc, it’s the only grape allowed in this universally popular vino.
A red varietal akin to pinot noir, gamay usually results in soft, fruity, easily drinkable wines with pronounced notes of tart red fruit.
Hand-harvested for life
They’ve gotta be gamay, they’ve gotta be hand-harvested, and they’ve gotta be from the Beaujolais AOC.
But seriously: the rules here are clear. All Beaujolais nouveau must consist of hand-harvested gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais AOC — but not in the AOC’s ten ‘cru’ regions.
The product of carbonic maceration
Beaujolais nouveau holds its popularity status for a number of reasons (clever marketing included), but its main draw is its light, fun, flirty personality. So where does that come from?
Let’s all say a quick thanks to carbonic maceration, the technique used to make these French belles. Also called whole-berry fermentation, carbonic maceration tosses entire grape clusters into vats, fills said vats with carbon dioxide, and seals ‘em up tight. The anaerobic environment then jumpstarts fermentation within the grapes themselves.
Eventually, they burst — and the fruit basically crushes itself into a full-fledged, ready-to-drink wine.
A bubblegum delight
Carbonic maceration’s known for the soft, smooth, nearly tannin-less wines it produces — and in Beaujolais nouveau, that manifests as distinctive notes of cranberry, raspberry, banana, and bubblegum.
Wait, banana? And bubblegum? Yes, indeed: classic Beaujolais nouveau drinks youthful, bright, and bouncy and highlights unique flavours you don’t often find in other wines. It’s a bit like the candy version of vino, if you ask us.
A masterclass in marketing
For the better part of 70 years, Beaujolais nouveau has benefitted from clever and intuitive marketing that sells it as a chic, of-the-moment, on-trend wine sought after by those in the know. The UIVB capitalised on every aspect of the wine’s popularity, growing its release into a highly anticipated event on an international scale. Brava!
Crafted quickly, drunk young
Beaujolais nouveau throws your classic wine making timeline out the window. Usually on shelves a mere six to eight weeks after vineyard workers pick the grapes from the vines, it’s also meant to be quaffed immediately rather than squirrelled away and saved for another time — although there are some Beaujolais nouveau stalwarts in the universe who maintain that some are, indeed, cellar-worthy.
Learn anything new, mofo? Head here to get your mitts on your very own Beaujolais, courtesy of our stellar lineup.