A wine holiday


The annual tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau Day sees this prized vintage shipped around the globe for uncorking at midnight on the third Thursday of November. This year the wine’s celebrated release falls on the 15th of the month. 

According to French law, only at the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of can the year’s first Beaujolais Nouveau wine be released for sale. The turn of the new day signifies the culmination of a fine-tuned process that sees more than half of the bottles exported overseas, predominantly to Japan, Germany and the United States.

Unlike most red wines that improve with age, the Beaujolais Nouveau, made in the Beaujolais region to the north of Lyon, is valued primarily for its freshness. It is made in a process called whole berry fermentation, which prevents the tannins from the grape skins from finding their way into the wine. Rapid fermentation ensures that the wine is ready to drink right away. Getting it from the vineyard and into the hands of international wine lovers with haste is thus a fine-tuned tradition.

Celebration over ceremony

The annual festivities, the most famous of which takes place in the French town of Beaujeu, have spread around the world. They have also made their way to Finland, where the French Trade Commission has organised a Beaujolais Nouveau release event at Helsinki’s Hotel Kämp for the past three years. The occasion attracts a group of roughly 100 expats and wine aficionados annually.

Guests arrive at Kämp about an hour before midnight. With more good cheer than pompous ceremony, the first bottle is uncorked.

“It’s a great atmosphere and lots of fun,” says Leena Aradj, senior trade adviser at UBIFRANCE. “Everyone has a glass in hand quite quickly, and each person has an opinion on what kind of flavours you’ll find this time round.” 

A marketing success

Beaujolais Nouveau’s main producer, Georges du Boeuf, first started marketing the release of the wine as a special event in the 1970s. While France is at the centre of the celebrations, these days almost 35 million bottles make their way to other locations.

In the US, for example, the Beaujolais Nouveau has become a popular complement to Thanksgiving dinners, which take place in late November.  The wine has also found a substantial niche with female consumers in Japan, with the media there reportedly whipping up a frenzy around its release.

The flavour of Beaujolais Nouveau is described as fresh and light – not unlike the celebrations that surround its unveiling. Additionally, it seems that the Beaujolais Nouveau Day has taken on a flavour that everyone can enjoy; after all, wine has a tendency to set a festive mood.

by Sarah Hudson

Published November 6, 2012

Category: Local features