About this time today... truthfully, EXACTLY around this time in the world of wine... people begin to anticipate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. The three questions I have heard people ask about this new wine and I have asked myself are:
1. What exactly IS Beaujolais Nouveau?
2. Why is this French wine important and why is such a fuss made out of it?
3. I’m not that crazy about it – why should I bother drinking it?
The first question is an easy one to answer. Beaujolais Nouveau is literally the new French wine from the Beaujolais region in Burgundy. And by new, I mean really, really new. It’s about six weeks old (in other words, very, very, VERY young wine) made from the current year’s wine harvest, and by French law can only be released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This particular young wine is always made from Gamay grapes (although there are plenty of other wonderful wines made from the Gamay grape as well).
Which bring me to the next question: Why is Beaujolais Nouveau important? Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that from a wine-lover’s point of view that it is not all that important at all! Beaujolais Nouveau is a very young wine and I can’t say that it is a favourite of mine. After performing a wine tasting, this tastes a bit better than a grape juice.
However, from a marketing perspective, the Beaujolais Nouveau story is actually quite fascinating and provides a glimpse into the often mad world of wine promotion. The production and sales of Beaujolais Nouveau went from about ONE MILLION bottles in the 1960s to over SEVENTY MILLION bottles today! Totalling an approximate 700 percent increase in sales! I don’t know about you, but if I were in a business that saw a 700 percent increase in sales in a relatively short period of time (and a lot of this took place before the Internet and Social Media); I’d sit up and take notice too.
One determined Frenchman in particular, Georges Dubeouf, worked tirelessly to get the word out about Beaujolais Nouveau to the public. He was so successful that now many people around the world wait with excitement to be able to open that first bottle the moment it’s available. It’s one of the biggest marketing events created in the wine world!
There is another point of view though – some people say that the new, fresh wine is an indication of what might be available down the road for wine lovers from that particular region of France. However, it’s my belief that it’s a chance for wine producers to make big money right now – and I don’t blame them for taking advantage of a little marketing hype.
So lastly, why would you bother drinking this hyped up French wine? If I want to be part of a world-wide phenomenon and know that those who are interested in Beaujolais Nouveau are all drinking it at the same time, I might have a glass. It’s the first chance to toast the newest vintage from the northern hemisphere. If I was looking to transition from white wine to red, I might start with a Beaujolais Nouveau. So why not?
For me, this wine is just a passing interest. I’d far rather drink great wine that’s Spanish, French, Italian, American, Canadian, Portuguese, Chilean, Argentinian... well, you get the idea. Most of all, I’d rather visit one of the smaller wineries in one of those countries and actually talk to the winemakers, seeing where and how the wine is made, and drinking that great wine with great food. What about you?