Us Americans cherish the fourth Thursday of November every year as we feast on turkey, but in France, the third Thursday of November calls for fireworks and one of the year’s biggest parties! Not for the celebration of independence or a new year… but the end of a tiring harvest for the winemakers of eastern France’s Beaujolais Region. Now with millions of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau distributed each year and held for release at 12:01 am, it’s no wonder the rest of the world takes part in France’s tradition.
Knowing the interesting story behind this “holiday” is almost as fun as partaking in the celebrations themselves. Historically French winemakers in the Beaujolais Region sought a simple wine to knock back in the triumph of their hard work for the year’s harvest. They created themselves a young, red wine called Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais for the region in which it’s produced and Nouveau, which translates to “new” in French, to signify the lack of maturity the wine possessed.
As word of the tradition spread, its arrival became a coveted event. The release of Beaujolais Nouveau became an eagerly awaited annual celebration among the French and a race among producers to be the first to distribute their wine to Paris in time for their parties.
The officially unofficial release date became November 15th falling almost 6-8 weeks after the harvest. That began in 1951, then in 1985 government in the French region decided to declare two things by law: First that Beaujolais Nouveau day always falls on the third Thursday in November, and second that the wine to be held and released at 12:01 am that day. It’s said this decision was a product of strategic marketing for those more likely to begin their weekend early with the celebration of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. It trickled into America with marketers seizing the opportunity that it falls one week before Thanksgiving and the wine happens to pair perfectly with a turkey dinner.