For fans of French wine, there are few more exciting days in a year that the third Thursday of November—Beaujolais Nouveau! For those uninitiated, this traditional rite of the wine world marks the release of the new wines from the Beaujolais and Lyons regions of France, and has a character completely unique from any other celebration of new wine. What began as simply a local custom of trumpeting the new bottles slowly grew into a worldwide phenomenon, and today the release has even become something of a competition among wine merchants and distributors. Tomorrow just happens to be Beaujolais Nouveau, so here’s a quick summary of the hustle and bustle that’s about to happen in France.
At 12:01 AM in France—possibly by the time you read this post!—over a million cases of new Beaujolais wine will be leaving their wineries en route to Paris, where they will then be sorted and shipped immediately throughout the wine-drinking world. It has become something of a friendly race among all distributors to get their allotment of the wine to their customers first, and for those customers to be the first in the world to taste it. This means that these wines are being transported by any means necessary to get them to their destination first. Stories of transport by balloon, by world-class distance runners, even by elephant have abounded throughout the history of Beaujolais Nouveau. As you might expect, eventually the French government stepped in to try and control some of the chaos of the day, but they manage to maintain the joy and spirit of competition engendered by the unofficial holiday—by French law, in fact, one may not pour a drop of Beaujolais until the third Thursday in November.
For Chicago celebrants, there will be (at least) three tasting events in the area tonight and tomorrow:
Vertigo Sky Lounge at the Dana Hotel and Spa will celebrate Beaujolais starting tonight at 10:30 pm and going well past midnight into the official Beaujolais Nouveau.
Bistrot Zinc will celebrate with both dinner and wine for a reasonable price: just $29.95 plus the price of the Beaujolais.
Bistro 110 hosts a tasting from 6 pm to 8:30 pm featuring not only the new Beaujolais, but four other wines from the region and a sample of head chef Dominique Tounge’s pumpkin menu.
However you celebrate, make sure you celebrate soon: Beaujolais is a wine that must be opened and enjoyed within weeks of its bottling, so curious wine lovers should jump on their chance now, or they’ll be waiting until the next Beaujolais Nouveau!