The third Thursday of November is Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
This is the day in France — and around the world — when the first young red wine of the year in France is released at precisely 12:01 a.m. The wine also goes on sale around the world when it is this time in France, so that wine lovers globally can celebrate together.
The day is marked by festivals, parties, music and fireworks and in the northern hemisphere at least, provides a bright spot in the fall as greyer, colder weather approaches.
Producers invest a lot of money in promotional material and resources to support the capacity of their various channel partners to promote the day. Events are held in bars, restaurants and wine stores. Some bars in France will pour straight from the barrels for a more authentic, rustic feel.
The bottles are adorned with typically gaily decorated labels. The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau brand has corks printed with unique codes. You enter the code from your bottle into a web site to see if you have won a prize.
The wine, and the celebrations, are very popular in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Some argue even more so in those countries than in France: some people in France look down on it as just so much marketing for not-very-good wine.
In the United States, the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives just in time for the big Thanksgiving holiday, which helps sales tremendously. People will try to pre-order it, so there’s a bottle reserved for them to take to Thanksgiving dinner.
The wine is made from Gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais area of France, and has been aged for just barely two-months. The taste will be different every year but will generally be light and fresh tasting, given its very young age. Some people like that it’s an uncomplicated wine that no one expects too much of.
Still, wine analysts all rush to critique this year’s release in colour, taste and body, as well as in light of this past year’s growing and harvest season weather conditions. They will also critique this year’s label.
Each year’s release is only available for a limited time, as only so much is made. In some years, supplies may be restricted for various reasons including growing season yields, etc.
While the tradition of celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau is now deeply entrenched, the event itself is a actually very, very “nouveau” date on the French calendar.
See also: Wine, French Food, Wine Day, Drink Wine Day, Red Wine Day, Wine and Cheese Day, World Malbec Day, Vinalia Urbana, Vinalia Rustica, Meditrinalia
Under French wine laws, introduced in 1951, no new wine can be sold before the 15th of December unless it is marked as “nouveau” (new”). In 1985, the date for which these new wines could be released was fixed as being the third Thursday of November. So while the “nouveau” wording is now used as a marketing buzz-word, it’s actually there for legal reasons. This is definitely a case of getting in front of something and making it look like a parade!
A man named Georges Duboeuf championed developing marketing campaigns to grow markets for the “nouveau” wine. In the 1970s, races were held to get the wine into Paris for sale. This generated interest:
“The race from Beaujolais to Paris attracted increasing media coverage each year…” Bland, Alastair. The History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Magazine. 15 November 2012. Accessed October 2021 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-history-of-beaujolais-nouveau-day-127613361/
In the early 2000s, interest started to wane a bit, but as of the 2020s, the marketers had succeeded in piquing the interest of a new generation and sales levels are recovering. Bland, Alastair. The History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Magazine. 15 November 2012. Accessed October 2021 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-history-of-beaujolais-nouveau-day-127613361/
The Romans had a “new wine” festival earlier in the season, in October, called the “Meditrinalia” but the new wine, which was very new at that point, just a few weeks old if that, wasn’t so much drunk as just noted and celebrated.
Barry, Kevin. Beaujolais Nouveau Uncorks The Holiday Season At Retail. New York, NY: Market Watch Magazine. 15 November 2021. Accessed November 2021 at https://www.marketwatchmag.com/beaujolais-nouveau-uncorks-the-holiday-season-at-retail/
Bieler, Kristen. 2021 Beaujolais Nouveau Is Here—But You Might Have to Work to Find It. New York, New York: Wine Spectator. 18 November 2021. Accessed November 2021 at https://www.winespectator.com/articles/2021-beaujolais-nouveau-is-here-but-you-might-have-to-work-to-find-it
Bland, Alastair. The History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Magazine. 15 November 2012. Accessed October 2021 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-history-of-beaujolais-nouveau-day-127613361/
Kleinman, Jacob and Courtney Traub. How (& Where) to Enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Tastings in Paris. Blog Entry. 15 November 2021. Accessed November 2021 at
Marsh, Janine. Beaujolais Nouveau Day – what’s it all about? The Good Life France. 7 November 2013. Accessed October 2021 at https://thegoodlifefrance.com/beaujolais-nouveau-day-whats-it-all-about/
Wine Lovers Celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2021. Plymouth, MN: Beverage Dynamics. 18 November 2021. Accessed November 2021 at https://beveragedynamics.com/2021/11/18/beaujolais-nouveau-day-2021-wine/
|↑1||Bland, Alastair. The History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Magazine. 15 November 2012. Accessed October 2021 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-history-of-beaujolais-nouveau-day-127613361/|
|↑2||Bland, Alastair. The History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Magazine. 15 November 2012. Accessed October 2021 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-history-of-beaujolais-nouveau-day-127613361/|