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Culture Re-View: How the third Thursday of November became Beaujolais Nouveau day in France

Wine and snacks, all in a day's work
Wine and snacks, all in a day's work Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Jonny Walfisz
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16 November: Happy Beaujolais Nouveau day!

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There’s never a bad time to sit outside sipping a sumptuous glass of whine as you stuff your gob with various cheeses and charcuteries. For wine lovers in France, this Thursday is an extra special day to indulge in the most wonderfully French tradition.

The third Thursday of November is Beaujolais Nouveau day. If that’s a new term to you, let’s dig into it. 

Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine that marks the culmination of a year’s harvest in the Beaujolais region.

Made with the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Nouveau is produced in a rapid timeframe. The fruity red wine is produced in under two months from the grapes being picked. The result is a highly acidic wine with low tannins. 

Some call it fruity and fresh. 

Others are far from complimentary.

Whatever you think of the wine, what’s interesting is the way that it has become such a unique part of the French calendar.

The practice of making the young wine at the end of the harvest has been around for hundreds of years without making much of a mark. Then, in 1937, the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) – the organisation that designates the geographical conditions for a wine’s status – ruled that Beaujolais Nouveau could only be sold after the 15 December.

This was then relaxed to the 15 November in 1951, which was also the third Thursday of that month. The standard for the wine’s release on the third Thursday was then codified in 1985.

A glass of Beaujolais Nouveau is poured
A glass of Beaujolais Nouveau is pouredCanva

A marketing campaign in the 50s is what pushed Beaujolais Nouveau into such a prized part of French culture. The campaign consisted of a sponsored race to see who could get a case of the wine to Paris first. 

In the 1970s, the race became a national event, spreading to international fame throughout the rest of the 20th century.

Today, wine lovers across France will race to try and get their hands on the prized bottles. The Beaujolais Nouveau vineyards work at a staggering rate. Around 30 million bottles of the stuff will be shipped around the world all in time for the 16 November this year.

If you’re a cafe in France that’s managed to get their hands on a case, expect to be filled to the brim with punters sipping the – admittedly quite tart – tipple. 

If you’re not in France, fret not. Beaujolais Nouveau is now exported globally, with Germany, the US and Japan all making big annual orders. 

Santé!

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