Friend of IT Anastasia Kolobrodova is teaching English near Lyon, France, for the year, and she’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of the region’s most feted few days — the celebration of 2008’s Beaujolais Nouveau.
Common wisdom holds that wine gets better with age. There is one wine, however, which is made to be drunk young: Beaujolais Nouveau. While most of America is planning the Thanksgiving feast, France is preparing to herald 2008’s vintage of this fledgling wine.
Each year, when Beaujolais Nouveau barrels into the market on the third Thursday of November, people rush to be the first to taste the new vintage. This dash originated in 1970, when two Englishmen had a private competition to see who would be the first to deliver a batch of Beaujolais Nouveau to London. Since then, the “Beaujolais Race” has increased in size, scope, and grandeur, with the wine being delivered by private plane, parachute, and hot air balloon to locations all over the world. While competitive enjoyment of Beaujolais Nouveau was once exclusive to France and its in-the-know-neighbors, the race has since been extended
to America, Japan, Russia, and Australia, with people of each nation counting down to midnight before pouring the first glass. It is a wine that transcends nationality.
Last year, my sampling of Beaujolais Nouveau took place in Kansas, where the liquor stores close at 11 p.m. So much for a Wednesday night countdown to midnight! But this year, my Beaujolais Nouveau experience will be much more authentic. Not only am I living in Lyon, the largest city in proximity to the Beaujolais region, but I am also working in Tarare, a town in the south of the region, which holds a large festival each year to celebrate the wine’s arrival.
Lyon’s festivities begin November 19 at 9 p.m. with horses trotting alongside the Saône to deliver 2008’s Beaujolais Nouveau to Place Antonin Poncet (next to Lyon’s famous Place Bellecour). Shortly thereafter, Place Antonin Poncet will be filled with live music, fireworks, and, most likely, bottles of previous years’ Beaujolais being passed from hand-to-hand. At exactly midnight, I will join French people, tourists, and drunks to get my free sample of 2008’s Beaujolais Nouveau. These festivities are known as Lyon’s Beaujol’ympiades.
The celebrations continue on November 20 at les Halles de Lyon, a covered market in the third arrondissement famously frequented by celebrity chef Paul Bocuse, for their exhibit on the creation of Beaujolais Nouveau and a tasting of more varieties of the new wine. The hillside town of Tarare, population 10,600, also rolls out its annual Beaujolais Gourmand, a five-day festival to celebrate the new wine along with tastes of the region, complete with cave tours and a film. Concerts and ample tastings abound through the weekend region-wide.
Overall, the fête du Beaujolais promises to be a tasty experience, perhaps delicious enough to make up for the turkey deficiency I may experience the following Thursday.
Photo via GilletDaniel’s Flickr.