Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a French holiday that takes place on the third Thursday of November every year. This year, it is celebrated on November 21. Owing to its proximity to Thanksgiving, many in America choose this crimson red wine with a refreshing, fruity taste as an accompaniment to their holiday meal. The wine is fermented for only a few weeks using the purple-colored Gamay grape grown exclusively in the Beaujolais sub-region of Burgundy. This makes it a ‘nouveau’ or ‘vin de primeur,’ a wine harvested for sale in the same year. Beaujolais farmers first celebrated the harvest in the 19th century.
History of Beaujolais Nouveau Day
Though the harvest of Beaujolais Nouveau has been celebrated for centuries, this locally grown wine was little known outside its region until WWII. Originally released for sale every year on December 15, the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais (U.I.V.B.) brought the date forward to November 15 in 1951. Perhaps no one has done more to celebrate this young, vibrant wine than winemaker and entrepreneur Georges Duboeuf.
In the 1970s, Duboeuf spearheaded a campaign to promote the wine in his home country, capturing the French imagination with the slogan “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” By 1985, Beaujolais Nouveau had become so popular throughout Europe that the release date was moved to the third Thursday of November to bring it closer to the weekend. In the 1990s, the wine made its way across the Atlantic to America, and the rest, as they say, is history!
It couldn’t have come at a better time for America. With the holiday falling the week before Thanksgiving, Beaujolais Nouveau has become a go-to pairing with roast turkey and cranberry sauce. In fact, the wine has gained gastronomic importance in its home country, inspiring French chefs to make renditions of traditional Burgundy dishes such as Coq au Vin and poached pears.
As far as wines go, Beaujolais Nouveau is certainly on the less complex side of the spectrum. According to wine critic Karen MacNeil, “Drinking it gives you the same kind of silly pleasure as eating cookie dough.” But let there be no doubt: Beaujolais Nouveau is essentially a harvest celebration, with the main fervor centered on the spirit of newness.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day timeline
English clubs hold races in which drivers compete to be the first to deliver Beaujolais Nouveau when it is released.
Swansea’s No Sign Bar helps to popularize Beaujolais Nouveau in Great Britain.
Minneapolis becomes only the second city in the United States after New York to import the wine.
The official slogan is changed to “It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!”
Beaujolais Nouveau Day FAQs
Can you store Beaujolais Nouveau to drink later, like other wines?
No, Beaujolais Nouveau should be drunk as soon as possible and certainly never after May next year. Essentially, it has a six-month shelf life, after which its flavors flatten and it loses its taste.
Who decides when Beaujolais Nouveau is released?
The French government requires Beaujolais Nouveau to be released no later than 12:01 A.M. on the third Thursday of November each year.
What is the best temperature to serve Beaujolais Nouveau?
Experts and oenophiles recommend the wine be drunk slightly chilled at a nominal temperature of 55°F.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day Activities
Celebrate in style
Beaujolais Nouveau is typically served slightly chilled and pairs readily with a wide selection of cheeses and canapés. Celebrate this holiday with a party to mark the occasion with friends and family.
Take the party to France
Every year, hundreds of Beaujolais Nouveau festivals are held throughout France. Les Sarmentelles, held in the region’s capital, Beaujeu, is one not to be missed.
Plan your Thanksgiving dinner
Beaujolais Nouveau Day, which falls just a week before Thanksgiving, is the ideal time to go wine shopping for the extremely quaffable wine. It will perfectly complement your Thanksgiving dinner, with plenty to go around for everyone.
5 Interesting Facts About Beaujolais Nouveau
The United States is only the third-largest exporter of Beaujolais Nouveau, behind Japan and Germany.
The human touch
Apart from Champagne, Beaujolais Nouveau is the only wine that is made from grapes handpicked by growers.
Beauty before age
The relatively low tannin content in Beaujolais Nouveau is what makes it drinkable so early.
Short and sweet
The wine is fermented for just two weeks through a process called “carbonic maceration,” which softens its tannins, giving it its signature fruity taste.
By all means…
People have raced to deliver freshly bottled Beaujolais Nouveau around the world using different modes of transport, such as elephants, supersonic jets, and even hot-air balloons!
Why We Love Beaujolais Nouveau Day
A celebration of life
Above all else, Beaujolais Nouveau is a celebration of newness! It is an opportunity to toast the memory of the harvest in a spirit of renewal and regeneration.
Great excuse for a shindig
Organize a soirée and serve the wine chilled with soft and semi-soft cheeses such as brie, Camembert, and feta. Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with finger food, salty crackers, and charcuterie. Nutty desserts such as pecan pie and almond cakes are ideal to match with the wine for dessert.
Perfect time for a tasting
Some wine shops offer free dégustation (tasting) sessions of Beaujolais Nouveau. If you’re new to wine, this is a great way to introduce yourself if you're new to wine.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day dates