While most of us know the fourth Thursday of November is reserved for Thanksgiving Day, but what about the third Thursday?
That’s reserved for Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a French holiday celebrated on the third Thursday of November (one week before Thanksgiving) that commemorates the end of harvest season. The Beaujolais nouveau itself is a wine named after the region in France where is produced.
Under French law, only hand-picked Gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais region may be used. No machine harvesting is permitted.
Unlike other traditional French wines, Beaujolais Nouveau goes through a much shorter fermentation process called carbonic maceration in which whole bunches of uncrushed grapes are placed in vats, sealed and then filled with carbon dioxide (CO2) to remove the oxygen. It extracts the color, but not the tannins which tend to make wines dry. The wine is bottled, on average, six to eight weeks after harvest. This yields a sweet, brightly–colored, fruit-forward wine that is the perfect companion for many Thanksgiving Day dishes.
Also, under French law, Beaujolais Nouveau may not be released before the third Thursday of November.
So what’s with the whole Beaujolais Day hype?
Beaujolais Day began as a local phenomenon among regional cafes and bistros marked with parties, fireworks, music and more. As the harvest would come in each fall, it was greeted with a great deal fanfare and the French government was not pleased and set forth actions in the late 1930s to regulate how and when this quick-to-drink table wine could be celebrated.
Wine production in France is extremely controlled, right down to the label. Any violations of regulations can and often does, cost a winemaker the privilege of producing wine.
By 1951, earlier restrictions were replaced and Nov. 15 was selected as the official release date.
Et voila! Beaujolais Nouveau Day was born.
In the mid-1960s, wine merchant Georges Duboeuf helped popularize the day by sponsoring car races, seeing which driver could get the most wine from Beaujolais to Paris in the least amount of time. A smart businessman, Duboeuf’s goal was not so much to get wine to Paris, but to create more cash flow out of wine at the end of harvest.
Each year Duboeuf held the event, it grew in popularity. By 1970, it was common across Europe. By 1980, it had become popular in the U.S. and by the mid-1990s, it was being celebrated in parts of Asia.
In 1985, the date was changed again to the third Thursday of November.
Typically served between 54-58 degrees Fahrenheit, Beaujolais Nouveau is as close to a white wine as a red wine can get, making it a dependable crowd-pleaser. Pair it with a variety of cheeses, fruits and charcuterie. It also makes a great wine to serve on Thanksgiving Day. Its sweetness complements most side dishes and, with less tannin, is a wonderful remedy to a slightly dry turkey.
Looking to get your Beau-jo working? This sweet red wine is available at most wine stores (on or after Nov. 19, 2020, of course) and has a pleasing price point of about $14. Can’t find it in your favorite store? Then order online. It is permissible to ship directly to Idaho.
Faisons la fête! Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!