Every wine lover looks forward to the annual release of the year’s Beaujolais wines from the south of France. Since 1985, the wine makers of France’s Beaujolais region have set the third weekend of November as the date that they release their popular red wine. The race to get the precious bottles around the world usually triggers long line ups, and great excitement. While you can now buy a bottle of excellent bottle of Beaujolais just about anywhere, the best place to celebrate this young and flavourful wine is right in France.
The many bistros of Paris host events on the eve of Beaujolais Day, anticipating the post-midnight release of the wine. But one of France’s best kept secrets is celebrated every year in the town of Tarare, deep in the Beaujolais region, just northeast of Lyon. In late November every year, the town’s fabulous Fête du Beaujolais Gourmand celebrates the best of French wines. An annual tradition since 1997, the streets of his medieval town are crammed with people eating, enjoying themselves, and obviously, drinking a glass or two of lovely red wine.
The festival runs for a few days, with the peak coming on the night of Beaujolais Day, when at midnight, the shops open their doors and officially release the first vintage of the year in France; the Beaujolais Nouveau.
This year, the festival runs from November 16th to November 20th, with Beaujolais Day falling on the 17th. The theme for this year is “Scène de femmes”, or everything to do with what is feminine and beautiful. There will be female (and some male) singers, acrobats, dancers, and a pink and black décor to highlight the feel of burlesque.
The festival kicks off with a special evening on the 16th of November, leading up to the midnight release of the new wines. Friday night will be the Night of the Tarandouille (a local dish made of Andouille sausage, and cooked in Beaujolais, and bacon. Then, on the weekend, there is a gourmet market, cellar visits and wine-tasting to run all weekend.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes, fermented for a few weeks before sale in November. In the 19th century, when the first of the new Beaujolais were sent down the river to Lyon, signs would be posted along the way announcing its arrival and the celebrations of a new harvest.
Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be enjoyed young, when the wine is at its fruitiest. It is not meant to be stored and saved for later; Beaujolais is for today. So this year, why not celebrate the best of French wines at the Fête du Beaujolais Gourmand?