Back in 1990, as a student at the University of Stendhal in Grenoble, France, I enjoyed living with a young couple and their infant son outside of Grenoble near Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux. While there are several fun and interesting stories about my stay with this family, the most novel was my introduction to a now famous wine the world over: Le Beaujolais Nouveau!
"Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!!" my host mother exclaimed one early morning. Finishing the last of my breakfast, I stared in confusion at this woman's rare exuberance. She proceeded to explain that we must make plans to "faire la fête" in honor of this unknown-to-me-yet guest! Without much information or any direction, I began inviting friends and acquaintances to this party we would be holding the next weekend. It wasn't until one of my French friends informed me that I wasn't planning a party for a person, but rather for a type of wine! Yes, we would be celebrating the release of that year's vintage made from Gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region of France, a small region to the northwest of Grenoble. As the story goes, this young wine was produced as a cheap way to celebrate the end of the harvest season and its first wine. This particular wine is
meant to be drunk soon after its release and from everything I've read, and experienced, very few bottles can withstand the test of time. Since the 1970's, yearly celebrations have erupted around France on the third Thursday of November. Armed with this new information, I now understood why my host mother was so excited.
The day of the party arrived, as did the several crates of Beaujolais Nouveau. As an American university student, I had seen my share of parties, however, to this day, this particular celebration still holds a special place in mon coeur (my heart). We weren't just drinking wine, we were drinking to tradition, to a farmer's hard work, to the miracle in alchemy that is wine, and to the passage of another year through this new vintage. Our family's party was reflected across the country that weekend -- in some places the celebration lasted for more than just an evening as some villages in the Beaujolais region actually host week-long celebrations of their newest wine.
If this sounds like fun to you, it's not too late for you to start planning your own "fête"! This year, Beaujolais Nouveau will be celebrated on Thursday, November 19 after which you will be able to purchase this year's vintage from French vintners. We all need more fun this year...why not make it a lovely glass of fruity, light-bodied wine from the Beaujolais region!!