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Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé

Beaujolais, one of France’s major vinicultural regions, lies some 50 km north of Lyons and stretches northwards through the French department of Rhône and southwards along the Saône and Loire rivers. Midnight on the third Thursday in November is one of the crowning moments in the region when, to the cry of le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! (the new Beaujolais has arrived), local vintners release one of their youngest and most international wines. This red wine, made from the gamay grape – the most widely used in the area – is characterised by its quick, merely weeks-long fermentation and by the fact that the whole production is released onto the market simultaneously. This is achieved through what is probably one of the best known marketing operations in the viticultural sector, with a worldwide reach – Japan, the United States and Germany are among its main importers.

All this marketing madness has its origins in something far simpler, the local tradition of celebrating the end of the harvest. To this end, a young wine was made and consumed solely in the region itself. However, the official birth date of this wine is 1951, when authorisation was granted to release it onto the market on 15 November. It then became popular throughout France and sparked fierce competition between vintners, who vied to be the first to take their bottled wine to Paris. Also significant is the figure of Georges Duboeuf, one of the leading producers in the region, credited with having christened the wine Beaujolais Nouveau and being the leading promoter of the label. In 1985, the release date was moved to the third Thursday in November, while the festival was scheduled for the weekend to boost sales.

A Veritable Wine Festival

But, not everything related to Beaujolais Nouveau is commercial. There is also time for entertainment, the perfect excuse to visit this beautiful grape-growing region during the festival. All types of wine-related festive activities – known as the Beaujolais Days – are held across the region. The most famous one is Les Sarmentelles, held in the town of Beaujeu, the region’s historical capital. It lasts five days and activities include a host of wine-tasting events, and the chance to savour local cuisine, as well as to enjoy their music and dance. Sports enthusiasts will relish the Beaujolais Marathon, a race which takes runners past several chateaux and where wines and cheeses are offered at the aid stations. The whole race is run in a festive spirit, with a large number of participants wearing fancy dress. Even the city of Lyon gets involved in the celebration by organising the so-called Beaujol’ympiades, where you can join in by tasting the twelve Beaujolais AOCs.

Beaujolais Beyond Their Nouveau

Apart from their great festival, Beaujolais has a lot to see, discover and enjoy. Many tourist guides tend to compare this region to Tuscany, and they aren’t far wrong. Visitors to Beaujolais will discover beautiful scenery carpeted with vineyards, with the odd chateaux peeping out, in addition to charming stone villages and excellent culinary offerings.

Ready to toast the first wine of the season? Get your Vuelinghere.

 

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Goproo3, yves Tennevin, Shunichi kouroki