“Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!”

written Michael Oudyn

The third Thursday of November is just around the corner and that can mean just one thing: “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!”   This greatest wine slogan of all time is just one of media gimmicks and marketing hype which have turned this humble mediocrity into a profitable universal icon.

So how did all this happen?  Before World War II Beaujolais nouveau was sold in barrels for local consumption, especially in the bistros of nearby Lyons where it was so popular it was called “the third river of Lyon”.  After the war they started bottling the stuff and sending it to Paris where it was also a great bistro hit.  Then George Duboeuf, Beaujolais´ largest negociant and tireless mass-marketing genius, came up his greatest promotion stunt: the Beaujolais-nouveau race to Paris.  The media coverage of this yearly four-hour truck race soon was a frivolous, national event.  And it wasn´t long before the media circus went world-wide with balloons, elephants, rickshaws, motorcycles and Concorde jets joining in the fun. In 1985 the French Parliament fixed the third Thursday of November as the legal release date; it was illegal to sell Beaujolais nouveau anywhere in the world one minute before midnight.  The marketing coup was complete.  French restaurants had a guaranteed Thursday-night full house. US distributors had a week before Thanksgiving to hype Beaujolais as the ideal turkey wine.  The rest of the world, including number one importer Japan, could feel connected to the primal wine village; they would be sipping the same stuff at the same time with the whole wine-drinking world.

Rarely has so much fuss been made over so little.  Beaujolais nouveau is simple, immature, and particularly light weight. Karen MacNeil famously compared it to eating raw cookie dough and Eric Asimov calls it “candied and cloying”.  In positive-spin talk it has “glorious glugability”.  In any case this easy drinker is a great wine for those who don´t like wine.  Or for white-wine drinkers; serve it well chilled and it as close to a white wine as you can get and still be red. And it is food friendly: fresh, fruity, and acidic. This is due to carbonic maceration.  The grapes (Gamay by law) are not crushed; they are put whole into a sealed space with a little added CO2.  A few grapes on the bottom get pierced but most fermentation takes place inside the skins which keeps tannins to a minimum.  The easy-drinking result has little shelf life and must be drunk right now.  And therein lies its great economic charm: the process is cheap and the bottles spend no time cluttering up your shelves.  It is sold right now and there go your cash-flow ennuis.  The aromatic nose of quick financial return has led to numerous imitators, but none have yet developed the name recognition, tradition, and hype.

About this time of the year many  “serious wine drinkers” get dragged kicking and screaming to  Beaujolais nouveau parties only to succumb to its cheap thrills and guilty pleasures.  I know because I was one of them.  My advice is this: you can´t beat them.  So just get over it, accept the invite, have some frivolous fun, and hope they will be at least be serving up some Beaujolais cru as well.

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6 Responses to ““Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!””

  1. Margaret Howard Says:

    Ouch!! “Humble, simple, immature, mediocrity” such hurtful words for bn, which I have been known to toss back like grape juice, which it basically is, but I like it anyway, partly because it is a fleeting pleasure and demands nothing of me. Nice posting–we will miss you at Thanksgiving…I have no idea what David plans to pour out, but we will toast you.

  2. Lander Says:

    Interesting article.
    Looks they did a good marketing campaign 🙂

  3. Jim Fesler Says:

    So the question on Beaujolais nouveau is, “where’s du boeuf”, George?

  4. Nata Says:

    hhmmmmm Can i have some “Beaujolais nouveau” si vous pl?suppouse i wil like this easy drinker…)):

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