Bienvenue Beaujolais!

Why should you care about the third Thursday in November? It’s the day that Beaujolais Nouveau — a French red wine called BN for short — arrives in stores all over the world.

This is a light-bodied, fruity, fun red, made from the Gamay grape in the region of  Beaujolais. “Regular” Beaujolais is released the year after the grapes are picked, but BN is released a few weeks after the grapes come in. So the wine you taste was made with grapes picked just a few weeks before. The tradition started when winemakers wanted to use up their Gamay grapes and realized they could make a passable wine quickly with the use of the carbonic maceration method, where the fruity quality is preserved without the bitter tannins of the skins and seeds. What began as a winemaker trick became marketing genius. French law requires that BN be released no earlier than the third Thursday of November – no exceptions.

This is not a serious wine – it’s just fun and flirty and can be served chilled or at room temperature, and it pairs with virtually every food on the planet. (It’s particularly good with turkey and cranberry sauce.) Just don’t keep it too long – it’s meant to be drunk within six months of purchase. And in these financially precarious times, you’ll be happy to hear that BN is one of the best values out there; most bottles are about $10. A few producers are going green and bottling their BN in plastic bottles rather than glass; it keeps the shipping weight down.

Most wine stores carry three or four types of Beaujolais Nouveau, and here are some of the better producers to look for: Mommessin, Georges Duboueuf, Joseph Drouhin, J. Arthaud, and Michel Picard.

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