Although Cru Beaujolais has been having its moment in the sun for a few years now, its younger, lighter-bodied ‘nouveau’ cousin is coming back into its own.
How Beaujolais Nouveau Day started
The tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau dates back to the 1800s. Winemakers would bottle their just-fermented wine, produced from grapes harvested just a few months prior, an unusually tight timeframe in winemaking terms.
This occasion called for a massive celebration among Beaujolais-based vignerons, as well as bar owners and restaurateurs in nearby Lyon who would buy these wines by the barrel.
The official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau wines shifted throughout the 20th century. Upon the creation of the Beaujolais AOC in 1937, wines from the region (including Nouveau-style bottlings) couldn’t be released until after 15 December of the same year.
But by 1951 the regulations changed, and the official release date became 15 November.
In 1985, the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) deemed the third Thursday of November as the official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau wines.
As interest in these wines developed abroad, winemakers have since begun releasing them even earlier, so as to have the bottles available on international shelves ready for the official release date.
What do Beaujolais Nouveau wines taste like?
Due to their lack of ageing, Beaujolais Nouveau wines are light-bodied and fruit-driven, marked by low levels of tannin and bright acidity.
Critics of Beaujolais Nouveau describe the wines as thin or lacking complexity, but the nouveau style is not meant for long-term ageing. Rather, these wines are best enjoyed youthful, slightly chilled and accompanied by a harvest-inspired meal.
Beaujolais wines are always made from Gamay and like many of the wines from this region, nouveau wines are produced using carbonic maceration.
The resulting wines show pink and purple hues and are fresh and often marked by flavours of sour cherry, strawberry and banana. They are often consumed slightly chilled.
Globally, the slogan Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! (New Beaujolais has arrived!) has become adopted worldwide.
Because of its early release date and fresh, food-friendly nature, Beaujolais Nouveau has become synonymous with Thanksgiving Day meals in the United States. In France, celebrations take place across the Beaujolais region and throughout the rest of the country.
Despite a crash in popularity and a tainted reputation in the early 2000s, due to a glut of lower-quality wines appearing on the market, Beaujolais Nouveau is enjoying a revival.
The success of Beaujolais Nouveau has lead other wine regions around the world to adopt a nouveau-style approach, releasing young wines just a few weeks after harvest and fermentation.
Where to drink Beaujolais Nouveau
For those who want to be part of the party and taste the juicy freshness of nouveau this year, we’ve put together a list of wine bars and restaurants in London and across the UK where you can get your fill.
161 Kirk, Sydenham
Cellar d’Or, Chiswick
Gordon’s Wine Bar, Charing Cross
La Fromagerie, Marylebone
Lady of the Grapes, Covent Garden
Le Garrick, Covent Garden
London Shell Co, Paddington
Noble Rot, Lambs Conduit Street
Peckham Cellars, Queen’s Road Peckham
Rondo la Cave, High Holborn
Silver Lining, Hackney
Top Cuvée, Finsbury Park & Bethnal Green
Tap & Bottle, Union Street
Across the UK
Blackfriars Restaurant, Newcastle
Glouglou Wine Bar, Shrewsbury
The Great House Restaurant, Lavenham
The Green Room, Edinburgh
Wine Kraft, Edinburgh