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Inside Knowledge: what is Beaujolais Nouveau?

What is Beaujolais Nouveau?


In Short:
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young, fruity red wine from France designed to be drunk within six months of release.

Most red wines are aged for a period in barrel or bottle before release. But Beaujolais Nouveau is different. This fresh, fruity wine from France is sold and enjoyed just weeks after it is produced each autumn, traditionally in the third week of November. 


Made from Gamay grapes, the wine has a light, juicy character thanks to a special winemaking technique known as carbonic maceration. This process – which can also give the wine subtle flavours of bubble gum or banana – softens tannins and makes it ready to drink much sooner than other Beaujolais wines.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a vin de primeur: a French wine sold within the year it was harvested. And while it’s by far the most famous example, it’s not the only one. Dozens of other French regions are permitted to make these unaged wines, including Touraine, Gaillac and Côtes du Rhône.


Beaujolais Nouveau Day –  time to celebrate.

Every year on the third Thursday in November at 12:01am, Beaujolais Nouveau wines are released around the world, ready to drink. Vin de primeur wines such as this were traditionally drunk by vineyard workers to celebrate the end of the annual harvest, but in the 1950s Beaujolais vignerons started to promote them to consumers. Increasingly, they would compete in a race, seeing who could get them to the Paris bistros the fastest. 

Winemaker Georges Duboeuf – perhaps the most famous producer of Beaujolais Nouveau – was a pivotal figure, helping to gain the wine wider attention in the 1970s. The Beaujolais ‘race’ eventually went national, then spread to other countries in Europe, Asia and North America through the 1980s and 1990s. 

Now Beaujolais Nouveau Day is celebrated with parties, fireworks, music and bottomless glasses of newly made red wine – and, in the Beaujolais area itself, with a torchlit parade to celebrate the farmers that created it. Join in by cracking open a bottle of the refreshing Gamay on the third Thursday in November and sipping a glass or two with a delicious meal. 

The Best Way to Drink Beaujolais Nouveau? 


Like other light red wines, the temperature you serve Beaujolais Nouveau at is key. If you drink it too warm, it will taste overripe and flabby, so pop it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before you open it. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with fresh, fruity flavours that will pair with charcuterie and cheese plates, or light meat dishes such as chicken or turkey. 

You can drink Beaujolais any time of year – it’s especially delicious in November when it’s first released – but keep in mind that it should usually be enjoyed within six months of production, when the fruit flavours are at their most vibrant. If you’ve picked up a bottle from an especially good producer or notable vintage, you may be able to age it slightly longer. In which case, it will be perfect for the summer months: a refreshing pick by the pool or with a barbecue.