The third Thursday of November is known as Beaujolais Nouveau day. Started over 100 years ago it was seen by wine producers as a way to get rid of large quantities of wine and to get some cash in before the end of the year. And was a way to celebrate the end of another year’s harvest.
In the 1970s this turned into a race to see which of the dozen vintners could get their bottles to Paris first. Nowadays it is shipped to a global market ahead of Nouveau day with strict instructions that it is not to be released until 12.01 on the third Thursday. Which means of course that those in Fiji will be able to try it before people living in the region where it is made.
By law, all grapes in the region must be harvested by hand. The wine is made using carbonic maceration, whole berry anaerobic fermentation which emphasizes fruit flavours without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins. Grapes are loaded into a large (think 20,000 gallon) sealed container that is filled with carbon dioxide. Grapes that are gently crushed at the bottom of the container by the weight of the grapes start to ferment, emitting more CO2. All this carbon dioxide causes fermentation to take place inside the uncrushed grapes (without access to oxygen, hence “anaerobic fermentation”). The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins.
I had never paid much attention to this day before, in fact I had mostly forgotten about it, despite being a member of a private dining club in London called Le Beaujolais. When we were invited there this week by a friend who had booked a table we jumped at the chance. Not just for the wine, but also so we could go and hug our Gallic friends post events in Paris the week before.
We’ve been members of Le Beaujolais for as long as we have been together and whilst that might sound like a load of pretentious guff it couldn’t be further from the truth. Le Beaujolais is a very French wine bar upstairs, rammed in the evenings with people working locally meeting for a drink before heading out of London and home and a small intimate restaurant downstairs that is members only. Your annual membership fee is set at the price you paid the year you joined, so if it was back in the 70s you will be paying in Shillings, or if you joined in the mid nineties as we did it is around £70. We don’t go nearly as often as we should but I can’t imagine us not being a member. Or not joining in this annual tradition in future years. having experienced it once.
There is a set menu for the night, with a few choices for each course, all cooked to perfection. The smoked salmon was smoked by Jean-Yves the owner and was the best I have ever had.
This “amuse bouche” of mixed berries in Marc de Bourgogne or Pomace Brandy as it is also called nearly blew our socks off.
No trip to Le Beaujolais is complete with out cheese. And if you follow us on social media you will recognise this board. Over a dozen French cheeses to choose from, all of them delicious. And eaten with a knife and fork, French style, or if you must, with French bread.
Though aside from the cheese this is why we go. Jean-Yves chatting to Mr B at the end of the night. It might look serious from this pic but I can’t imagine it was!
If you are in London next year for Nouveau day, you really should go along to the wine bar for a glass or two. You will be amongst friends and really not want to leave.