The French have always been known for appreciating the finer things. Foie gras, champagne, tarte tatin, they know how to celebrate life. So what happens when a country known for fine wines produces a wine that is purposely made to be cheap and easy to drink? They drink a lot of it!
Over one million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau are shipped out around the world and are opened at one minute past midnight (per French law!). That’s over 65 million bottles! This accounts for nearly half of the region’s total annual production. But this wine wasn’t always so popular. In fact, it is simply the result of the world’s greatest marketing campaign.
In the 1950s, the distributors in the Beaujolais region, located just north of Lyon, started to compete in an annual race to deliver the bottles to Paris. By the 1970s, one distributor named George Dubœuf decided to publicize the race and the wine; he started events surrounding its production, made banners and flyers claiming “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!“, and set an official release date for the wine, originally November 15th, later changed to the third Thursday in November.
Once the wine and the race had gained publicity, it started being shipped around the world, with Japan being the biggest importer. To draw attention to their wineries during the annual race, the designated wine runners would try to “shake things up,” travelling by rickshaw, hot air balloon, Concorde jet, and even by elephant! But the question lingers: if the wine is not supposed to be a good, classic wine, with all the tannins and other oenophile vocabulary that I don’t know, why is it so popular? Why all the fuss? Simply put: because it is easy to drink. The way the wine is produced and the phenolic compounds result in a fruity wine that is actually closer to white wine than red. Plus the fact that it is usually chilled makes the wine is easy to drink in large quantities; it is not meant to be critiqued or “understood,” thus calling for celebration. Santé!
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