It only takes six weeks from the time the grapes are harvested in the south of France before they are served as Beaujolais Nouveau, but it took centuries before the people of Minneapolis could share in the enjoyment.
And enjoy it you should. Beaujolais Nouveau is a practical and enjoyable wine. We like to say it’s the red wine for white wine drinkers. It’s bursting with the flavors of fresh fruit, and quite frankly a delicious, quaffable wine. It’s not a wine that’s meant to be sipped and criticized, but instead gulped and enjoyed.
Beaujolais Nouveau has a proud tradition in France dating back centuries, to the reign of Louis XIV, when vintners in the Beaujolais region would race each other to deliver the first barrel to the king’s court. It was a celebration of the successful harvest.
Even after the fall of the Bourbons in the French Revolution, it has continued as a touchstone for the residents of France, becoming a sort of unofficial holiday. On the third Thursday of November, signs pop up in wine shops, restaurants and cafes across France announcing "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé !" ("The new Beaujolais has arrived!").
Today, the U.S. shares in the celebration, but in 1972, there were only two cities in the nation that could enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau: New York and Minneapolis. When I decided to import this exciting wine for the Minneapolis wine community, it came with some inherent risks.
You see, the interesting thing about Beaujolais Nouveau is that age does matter, but not in the way you might expect: It’s meant to be consumed quickly, not aged. In fact, legend says that if you drink Beaujolais Nouveau in the year in which it was bottled, you’ll have good luck all the following year. We say why chance unluckiness when you can enjoy it for such a modest price?
Because Beaujolais Nouveau is released on a specific date and meant to be consumed quickly, time was against us. That first year, we had to order 50 cases, because we had to fill an entire air cargo container—shipping by sea would have taken far too long. I was very fretful of being able to sell 600 bottles in the few weeks before the new year, when of course it would turn unlucky. After all, this wine was all but unknown in the area. But people loved it, and we sold out. Today we sell thousands of cases. We’re the largest retailer of Nouveau in the state of Minnesota and a top 10 retailer in the entire U.S.
Beaujolais Nouveau has been overlooked in recent years, but it’s making a comeback. It’s fun, approachable and very, very tasty. You can even serve it slightly chilled. If you’re looking for an unpretentious wine that pairs well with celebrations, good times and good friends—especially with the holidays coming up—we highly recommend it.
Just be sure to get it while it’s fresh.