Beaujolais Nouveau turns 60

French wine Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 bottlesToday marks the release of the controversial Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 batch. That’s right: a 2011 wine from France is already on the market, but it won’t be there for long. If you’re not familiar with this wine, it’s a young wine which needs to be consumed quickly after production, rather than aged. Although it was officially released in 1951 when the AOC rules for Beaujolais sales were relaxed to allow sales prior to 15th December, it only really became better known in the 1970s, when the race to Paris grew in popularity. Yes, there is a race to Paris with the new wine, from the Beaujolais wine-making area just west of Switzerland, every year and it has since spread to other countries. The date of annual release was 15th November until 1985, when the French realised they should sell the wine just before the weekend to take advantage of marketing opportunities around the world. And so now it’s released on the third Thursday of November.

History lesson out of the way, here’s the dirt. Years ago when I was a French language student in Annecy, the teacher announced that it was Beaujolais Nouveau release day, and that there’d be a wine-tasting session upstairs, put on by the school. Actually, I didn’t understand anything she said but a classmate explained it in English. We discovered a room full of clueless students getting a free swig from French wine sellers who explained to them in English why they should buy a bottle or two. Lured with enough freebie snacks, some of them spent their lunch money on the wine and filled up on crackers and cheese — and wine — instead.

I’ve asked some French people what Beaujolais Nouveau is all about and the general consensus is that it’s a good excuse to make fast cash on unfussy wind drinkers both here in France and abroad who know nothing about wine. Of course, there must be plenty of French people who love the wine (probably mostly from Beaujolais, in the same way that the Savoyards love their sickly sweet Savoyard local white wine as if it’s the best stuff in the world), but I’ve yet to met them.

So, today marks the day when the French supermarkets and wine sellers go into a marketing frenzy to try to get as much of the short-lived wine from shelves to customers’ mouths, while many around these parts walk past saying “bof” at the whole spectacle, plucking a bottle of that world-class Savoyard white wine instead.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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5 comments on “Beaujolais Nouveau turns 60
  1. Ron Rundle says:

    During 2009, we were in Alsace and Burgundy at this time of year and it seemed as though every restaurant, bistro and bar-tabac were having celebrations for the new Beaujolais vintage(?). I quite enjoy a chilled Beaujolais on a warm afternoon (or a decent Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, what else have you got) and I am not a member of the wine snobs club. If it tastes good and you enjoy it, it doesn’t matter if it’s Vintage 1984 or last week in my opinion. But I am open to discussions.

  2. Wendy says:

    I’ve no idea about red wine, but you’ve picked my two favourite white wines there, preferably not oaked. And that’s as much as I know about wine. :O)

  3. Jacqui says:

    We usually but a bottle – not because it’s great, but because it’s fun. The bottle labels are also far more jazzy than usual – more fun, add in some good company and good cheese – fun, fun, fun!

  4. Steph says:

    I had no idea about the history of it all, thanks for the info. I’m not a beaujolais fan particularly. I just go for what’s cheap at the supermarket!

  5. Wendy says:

    Yes, the labels are definitely more out there. There was a party happening yesterday when I went shopping: a few customers who sampled the vino must have gone back for seconds a few times! It certainly makes the supermarket more interesting.

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Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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