On the third Thursday of November, the French celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day. This holiday marks the release of the first wine from this year’s vintage made from grapes picked just a few weeks prior.

The Biggest Wine Celebration: Beaujolais Nouveau Day

by Beth Richman

While here in the U.S., we are counting down the days until we get to stuff ourselves with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, in France, folks are looking forward to the first taste of this year’s grape harvest. On the third Thursday of November, the French celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day. This holiday marks the release of the first wine from this year’s vintage made from grapes picked just a few weeks prior. In true French fashion, there are festivals, music, fireworks, and parties dedicated to this very important annual wine milestone. 

What is Beaujolais Nouveau?

If you enjoy light-bodied, refreshing reds with red berry notes, then you are in for a treat. Made with Gamay grapes, Beaujolais Nouveau is smooth, fruity, and drank with a slight chill. This particular style is a result of the special fermentation process used. Rather than crushing the grapes to release some juice in order for yeast to convert sugar into alcohol, a process called carbonic maceration is utilized. In this process, the grapes are delicately handled so they remain whole while they undergo a different type of enzymatic conversion. This allows the resulting wine to remain fresh and fruity without any bitter tannic notes from grape skins. Because of this special process, the grapes must be picked by hand. 

Beaujolais Nouveau is produced in the Beaujolais wine region, just south of the more prestigious Burgundy region. With a slightly warmer climate and granite soils, Gamay grows well here. Beaujolais doesn’t have the most renowned reputation among wine enthusiasts, however, there are 10 areas in the northern section of the region called crus. These subregions have the ideal terroir to produce high-quality wine from Gamay grapes that are a great value. 

While there are sought-after, high-quality Beaujolais wines everyone should experience, Beaujolais Nouveau is the ultimate party wine. These wines are crafted to be consumed young--no sniffing, swirling, or analyzing needed. If you pick up a bottle, make sure you drink it before May of the following year. However, it’s a well-known secret that Beaujolais Nouveau pairs beautifully with Thanksgiving staples, so if you do want one bottle to make it into the new year, make sure you grab two!

How did it become a national celebration?

This young, easy style of wine was first produced locally to toast the end of the harvest season. Gradually, it was shared with local cafes until it made its way to Paris, and the rest is history. Today, folks around the world patiently await the release, which is mandated by the French government to be 12:01 AM on the third Thursday of November. 

How do I get my hands on a bottle?

If you’re as excited to get a taste of what the 2020 vintage has in store as we are, head over to DCanter’s online shop to pre-order your bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. Wines will be ready for pick-up or delivery on Thursday, November 19th.