Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau

This weekend is the introduction of the Beaujolais Nouveau 2010.  Every year around this time, the new Beaujolais for the year is released by the vineyards in the Beaujolais AOC wine region in France.  Last year, to my great delight, I attended the festival with my friends Marianne, Haruka, and Amanda.  Marianne and her family are amazingly generous people and are from the region, and so we stayed at her parents' lovely home in a small town outside Lyon and enjoyed the festivities during the day. (We also ate delicious home-made crepes for dinner the night before, and toured into Lyon for an amazing meal after the festival.)  The weekend is celebrated all over the world, and Haruka told us that in Japan, the Beaujolais Nouveau weekend is almost a bigger deal than it is in France.  The celebrations in the region included vineyard tours, wine tastings, concerts, and a marathon through the towns in the region where one could dress up if one wanted.

Beaujolais is a light to medium-bodied red wine created from Gamay grapes.  An important note about Beaujolais is that there are actually three kinds of wine that fall under this name.  They are: Beaujolais, which covers the most extensive amount of production and most of these are Beaujolais Nouveau; Beaujolais-Villages, which is a slightly higher-quality wine than the Nouveau and is made in fewer villages and sold not until after the first winter has passed since bottling; and Crus du Beaujolais, which is the highest quality wine and is widely exported, though it accounts for a very small amount of the production in the area.  Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly are both Crus du Beaujolais that one can regularly find in liquor and wine stores in Canada.  In France, Beaujolais is often said to be the worst of all the wines, and what is largely referred to by comments such as this is the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Village.  The Crus are mostly given an exception to this harsh judgment (though methinks some of the very snobby snobs think that all of it is bad).

I have always enjoyed Beaujolais, though I had never had Beaujolais Nouveau, mostly because few of them are exported (though I did find some in Quebec in the summer), and I was really excited to participate in the festivities of the weekend.  We decided to start the day in Fleurie, where a Crus du Beaujolais named after the town is bottled.

Amanda, Marianne, and me walking in Fleurie 
Fleurie was at or near the beginning of the Beaujolais Marathon.  Marianne's father was running in the marathon, so we had hoped to catch the runners as they passed through, but arrived just a little too late.  The banners and confetti were still up and flying around, but the people had moved on to the next town, except for a few who were gathered around tents or tables with cups of wine.

The refreshment table in Arnas,
equipped with Nouveau
Because it's the Beaujolais Marathon to celebrate the Nouveau, and because this is just how life is lived in France as far as I can tell, runners in the marathon were handed cups of Nouveau as they ran instead of water or Gatorade (though those were also available for health purposes).  We toured around Fleurie a bit, wandered through the vineyards and enjoyed the spectacular view of the region that was afforded by the hill that Fleurie sits on.  When we were satisfied we got back in the car and headed to the next town.
The view from the Fleurie vineyard
Amanda, Marianne, and Haruka
eating awesome cheese and bread
We traipsed around like this for the whole day.  By early-afternoon we had arrived in Arnas, where we were finally just ahead of the bulk of the runners in the marathon.  We sat down with four different AMAZING cheeses that Marianne's mum had packed up for us, along with two baguettes fresh from the baker that morning, and cups of wine, and watched as the runners came by in all kinds of crazy outfits.  There was a band playing, and people were in excellent spirits.  We finished our lunch and moved to a small cafe that had tables outside, and so we ordered up a bottle of the Nouveau and drank that while we kept watching everyone run past.  Despite our efforts, we had still managed to miss Marianne's dad, as he was clearly very fast and was ahead of the pack.

People getting ready to run.
Marathoners all dressed up!

Amanda, Haruka and me drinking Nouveau in Arnas

Marianne having a wee drink, with runners behind her

On our way back to Lyon we stopped in to see Marianne's god-parents who happen to live in the region, and we walked with them to a little vineyard called La Ricottiere, where the owners made Beaujolais and were selling Nouveau and some of their own Villages.  They offered us tastings of their wine, which was delicious, and they were happily impressed when I said that the Villages had a nice taste of vanilla.  I purchased three bottles from them to bring home to Canada for my mum, Drew's mum, and my Gran, which is a bottle over the legal allowance, but I was willing to risk it.  The wine and the experience together were just so great that I had to share it with people who I knew would like it too.

The 'Cave' of La Ricottiere

Just to round-out the history of this trip and those three bottles of Beaujolais in my possession, I'll add on this little story: My luggage got lost on my flight back to Toronto at Christmas.  I was supposed to be on a direct flight, but we ended up stopping in Montreal and I had to change planes.  My flight was late and I missed the connection because we had to collect and re-check our luggage in Montreal, and I waited too long for my luggage - because it wasn't there.  So after a headache and extended wait in Trudeau Airport I finally arrived in Toronto, claimed my luggage at both airports, and gave them my address at home in Fenelon, to which location by bag was shipped the very next day.  It turns out that my suitcase got crushed in some piece of machinery, and it arrived in a clear plastic bag with my belongings inside and kind of dripping out at the edges.  Miraculously, all three bottles of wine were unharmed *and* undiscovered!  So everyone got their wine, and we all lived happily ever after.

1 comment:

  1. i love the dependence of "happily ever after" on the wine. :)