BEAUJOLAIS Nouveau day is being marked by tasting events around the world.
Producers are promising a particularly fruity and lively vintage this year and are hoping to challenge the prejudices of those who dismiss the credentials of a wine that, because of the way it is made, can feature aromas ranging from bananas to bubble gum.
"We are enthusiastic and optimistic," said Jean Bourjade of the Beaujolais trade board.
"This year, with the primeur (early release) wines we have achieved all the characteristics we look for: crisp, lively and fresh with lots of fruit."
As ever, the annual festivities kicked off in Japan, which snapped up 8.8 million bottles of Nouveau last year and is the biggest export market among the 110 countries that take the region's wines.
Nouveau accounts for 200,000 hectolitres out of a total of 700,000 hectolitres of total wine production in the Beaujolais, a picturesque area of steep hills just north of Lyon and bordering the Maconnais, a southern outpost of Burgundy that is largely white wine territory, famed for its dry, usually unoaked, chardonnays.
"Beaujolais nouveau is an initiation wine," adds Bourjade. "It's a little sharp, easy to drink and, as such, encourages consumers to discover the world of wine a little and especially the more serious Beaujolais."
The wine is made by a process known as carbonic maceration which enables juice to be extracted from the Gamay grapes with almost no tannin secreted from the skins.
As such, it is far removed in terms of complexity and ageing potential from the best bottles from the top Beaujolais villages, which include the evocatively titled Brouilly, Chiroubles and Moulin a Vent.
But it provides a welcome boost to tourism in the region with around 10,000 visitors expected for the launch ceremony this year in its historical capital Beaujeu.
Bourjade says Nouveau is far from being easy to produce, contrary to the claims of those who deride it as an "industrial" wine invented to provide producers with some quick cash flow within weeks of the harvest.
"You have to produce quickly in a short time without damaging the quality of the product," he says. "There is a real know-how involved and it's time to give it back the acclaim it deserves."
Beaujoloais Nouveau is the product of a clever and aggressive marketing campaign by winemakers, and parties and celebrations are held in France and around the world. Here are some of them:
The flagship event for Beaujolais Nouveau Day is Les Sarmentelles, held in the town of Beaujeu. And this year, the five-day event promises to be big given that it is a 25th anniversary celebration. Highlights of the event include parades, a ceremonial piercing of the wine barrel at a minute past midnight earlier today, an all-night ball, and of course, rivers of Beaujolais and food events.
It’s not entirely clear why the city of Swansea in South Wales has become one of the biggest destinations outside France to partake in Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Last year, for instance, tickets to one of the biggest events sold out in September, a party that had a guest list of 1,000. Unfortunately, not a drop of Beaujolais was served. This year, Morgans Hotel and the Dragon Hotel host three-course Beaujolais Nouveau lunches and dinners that pair the young, fruity wine with dishes like French onion soup and beef bourguignon.
In Seattle, the French-American Chamber of Commerce hosts its 21st annual Festival du Beaujolais Nouveau, with a program that includes a wine bar and French buffet, French music and dancing and a silent auction. The event will be hosted at the Columbia Tower Club tomorrow.
In Tokyo, the Grand Pacific Le Daiba hotel hosts a party today and tomorrow, where guests will be able to enjoy 30 kinds of new wine paired with complementary foods. The event will also feature a wine-tasting competition.
And in Melbourne, Australia, the Alliance Francaise is today hosting a Beaujolais Nouveau party with an aperitif of French wines and a cheese buffet.”
Text and photo: AfpRelaxnews