Beaujolais Day: What Does It Mean?

by | Nov 12, 2021 | History of Drinks, Articles | 0 comments

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is one of the world’s largest wine celebrations – and for good reason, too! If you’ve never heard of this iconic day before, pour yourself a glass of France’s finest, and familiarize yourself with the day’s history, importance, and purpose – it’s coming up very soon! 

beaujolais nouveau day
beaujolais nouveau day

Let’s get our basics down first. Beaujolais Nouveau is a type of wine, produced from the succulent, Gamay Noir grapes grown in the Beaujolais region of France. Once it is harvested at the end of summer, winemakers work incredibly quickly to turn the grapes into wine before the wine is consumed on Beaujolais Nouveau Day. It is bottled 6-8 weeks after harvesting, and made to drink young. This is where Beaujolais Nouveau Day comes in. 

Every year on the 3rd Thursday of November at 12:01am, the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released to consumers worldwide. It’s illegal for any retailer or winemaker to sell it before then. As the wine is so popular, oenophiles everywhere rush to get their hands on the latest vintage (yes, even at midnight!) and be one of the first to try the latest release. It’s become something of a competition – over 65 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau will be consumed on the day itself!

History of Beaujolais Day

A nouveau, or vin de primeur, is a wine which may be sold in the same year in which it was harvested. Dating back to the 1800s, wine growers in the Beaujolais region would often celebrate the end of the harvest by enjoying some of the very young wine they had just produced. It turned out to be quite delicious, and bar and restaurant owners started purchasing by the barrel. It’s reported that the transportation of these barrels was simply by floating them down the river! 

Eventually in 1937, AOC rules dictated that Beaujolais wine could only be sold after the 15th of December (as opposed to now, which is the 3rd Thursday of November). These rules were relaxed in 1951, when a team of marketers saw an opportunity to make their wine industry more profitable. They believed the 15th of December was too close to Christmas, so officially changed the dates to the 15th of November and created a race to see who could get their latest vintages to the Parisian markets the quickest. Some drivers were offered huge rewards to see who could come to Paris with the quickest and most amount of wine! The media LOVED it, and by the 70s, Beaujolais Day became a national event.

The success and popularity of this event has expanded through regions, countries, and even across the world. The date was officially changed again in 1985 to the 3rd Thursday in November, to take advantage of the holiday marketing. 

About The Wine

Beaujolais Nouveau is made of only one grape; Gamay, a thick-skinned red grape that is low in tannins. It makes a very light and fresh wine, with a fruity flavour sweetened by residual sugar. It is very similar to a Pinot Noir (in fact, they are cousins, and grow very close to each other in France). 

The reason why Beaujolais Nouveau is able to be produced so quickly is due to a process called ‘carbonic maceration’. This is when whole bunches of uncrushed grapes are used in the fermentation stage. Carbonic maceration gives the wine an emphasis on fruit flavours, without extracting the bitter tannins from the grape skin. There’s no need to age the wine – it’s best to open early and enjoy it with friends! 

beaujolais nouveau day

How To Celebrate In the UK

There will be plenty of wine events and gatherings popping up all around the country. If you happen to be based in London, there are two events that you mustn’t miss. The first is the famous Beaujolais Nouveau breakfast at Gordon’s Wine Bar – they’ll be serving up a full English, kedgeree, coffee and orange juice from 8-11am. You’ll find our founder Lucy there doing some quality control of the nouveau wine ahead of the second unmissable event: From Our Cellar’s tasting in Chiswick. From 6-8pm we’ll be at Old Town Deli on Devonshire Road doing a FREE tasting of this year’s harvest. Do pop by and grab a glass with us! 

And if breakfast wine or free wine aren’t your thing, then at the very least, grab a bottle from your local shop and celebrate this historic day over dinner. If you’ve never tried this wine before, we think you’ll be very impressed!

PS: We’ve heard on the grapevine that this year’s wine is a good one.