As I write, there’s a region of France - more south than north, more east than west - that’s going raucously and gloriously berserk. There’s singing and dancing; the telling of risqué jokes; the swapping of scurrilous gossip; the construction of tall stories. There’s good fellowship, acres of mutual common ground - and the kids are being indulged by being allowed not just to stay up and watch but to join in.
Most of all, though, there’s the scrutiny of full wine glasses, the sipping then slurping of the wine inside them, and the familiar hugs and smiles of righteous self-congratulation for another successful year.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Beaujolais Nouveau Weekend.
It began two days ago, on the third Thursday in November, as it always does. This year’s vintage was released to the world with the usual fanfares - and the even more usual over-indulgence in the land of its birth; the gentle country north of Lyon and west of the Sâone where France’s most popular wine has been grown, harvested, fermented and bottled since Roman times.
Parisian wine ‘connoisseurs’ and their counterparts elsewhere, many of whom should know better, often turn their noses up at the mere mention of Beaujolais. It’s too young when you drink it, it doesn’t age well, it’s too cheap, it’s too course, its ‘nose’ is too indelicate….
Poppycock. Beaujolais is generally light, refreshing and - as British wine-experts say - extremely ‘quaffable’. It is also by far the most popular wine in France. It’s so popular in nearby Lyon that they float barrels of it down the Sâone to keep the thirsty citizens supplied. And even in Paris, they drink more Beaujolais than any other wine.
I know that popularity does not equal quality - think of the Jeremy Kyle Show or the Daily Mail. But this is a different kettle of fish. We are talking about France and wine. If Beaujolais wasn’t reliable, pleasant, slurpable and more-ish, the French wouldn’t drink it in such vast quantities. And neither would we.
If you want to join in the celebrations, you can nip out for a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau over the next few days. To avoid the premium that’s always charged on wine so-labelled, though, go for a regular vintage Beaujolais. Try a Beaujolais-Villages (made and marketed by a co-operative of villages in the region), a Fleurie, a Brouilly or a Chiroubles.
Or better, you could splash out on real Beaujolais quality; try a Morgon, a Juliénas, a Chénas or a Moulin-à-Vent (‘Windmill’). They’re rich, full-bodied, aged and quite expensive - even in France.
(I really got a kick out of drawing up that list, by the way - simply because I habitually visited many of the places on it!)
I hope the wine is flowing freely throughout Beaujolais tonight. Now more than usual, French people need something to celebrate - and celebrate in style.
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