Since 1985, every third Thursday of November, the Beaujolais region in France releases a red wine at 12:01am (local time) made from recently harvested Gamay grapes. Known as Beaujolais Nouveau, this very fruity, young wine is celebrated throughout France with parties and fireworks; the main festivities are in Lyon. Millions of bottles are also shipped around the world beforehand, but kept under lock and key until the official day.
Hand-harvested, the whole grape is used in production (no bitter tannins from the skins) and the wine is bottled 6-8 weeks after harvest. Meant to be drank immediately, it is best served with a slight chill to bring out all the red fruit flavors – cherry, strawberry and raspberry.
In France, the celebration will run through the weekend and revelers will enjoy platters of charcuterie and cheese. Smoked ham, dried sausage or mild, soft cheeses are a perfect pairing for this young wine. Dinners of hearty stew and roasted meats (chicken or pork) will also be consumed throughout the long weekend celebration.
Beaujolais Nouveau has been around as early as the 1950s, but it was not until the 1970s that a national event was established. With all the media coverage surrounding the event, it became known internationally in the 1980s. Thanks to a group of marketing gurus, the official release date was finally established in 1985 as the third Thursday in November, the week before Thanksgiving.
So whether you have it this weekend or with your Thanksgiving dinner, make sure you have a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau before it disappears until next year.