Today I am celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day! This national french holiday, celebrated on the third Thursday of November, honours the uncorking of Beaujolais wine, a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France.
This cherry-coloured wine is meant to be consumed young, approximately a few weeks after the grapes were harvested. It is clearly not for wine snobs, since it’s the result of a quick fermentation process. Rather than a full-bodied red wine that wine connoisseurs are accustomed to, this wine is clean, soft and fruity, and light-tasting. Plus, it’s fairly inexpensive, usually selling for $10-$12 a bottle.
Critics might deign the wine to be cheap and uninteresting, yet it’s still popular among tourists, and the French of course. This day gathers many wine lovers from around the world, who visit France just to get a taste of the Beaujolais Nouveau offered for the year. Beaujolais Nouveau Day isn’t simply the uncorking of a bottle and a quick ‘a votre santé’ and a sip of wine. It’s a full on party, with a long list of festivities and events, all dedicated to wine.
Nineteen years ago, I had the opportunity to take part (unbeknownst to me) in the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations. In my second year of university I participated in an exchange program and spent the year abroad in Nice, studying the french culture and learning the language (read: not studying much, partying until the wee hours, talking in english with my Canadian roommates, eating cheese and baguettes, and drinking a TON of wine). At only 20 years old, I had a close-to-nil knowledge of wine. For me, a wine was acceptable as long as it was cheap. Coincidentally, I spent nowhere near a fortune on the glasses and glasses of wine that I consumed on Wednesday nights at Chez Wayne’s, our favourite hangout in Vieux Nice.
I clearly remember that day in November and all the buzz about some ‘new’ wine being introduced. Vintage signs that upsold the wine lined the entrances to all the épiceries, and the excited chatter of locals and tourists permeated through the streets. To be honest, this unknown holiday meant nothing to my fellow expats and I, nor did we care to question its relevance. We did however, buy a bottle of Beaujolais wine and met our french friends for drinks that night. Years later, the entire Beaujolais Nouveaux experience is now a blur in my mind however, not due to the wine that night. It was our own doing unfortunately, thanks to our complete lack of culture at the time.
In retrospect, I regret not having better appreciated this national French holiday. In honour of Beaujolais Nouveau Day today, I’ll celebrate by picking up a bottle of Beaujolais wine, just for old time’s sake. I’ll spend a cozy night in, sipping my wine, going through my scrapbooks, and reminiscing about one of the best years of my life. When I lift my glass I’ll silently acknowledge my Niçois friends with an ‘a votre santé’ and thank them (for the umpteenth time) for introducing me to the french culture, cheese and baguettes, (pan bagnat), the Côte d’Azur, Chez Wayne’s, and for Beaujolais!