Eiffel Tower marks the spot for midnight arrival of 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau

Georges Duboeuf’s artist-drawn labels, which change yearly, have become an emblem for the Beaujolais Nouveau industry.
Courtesy of Georges Duboeuf

Words like young and new are rarely used to describe good wine. In some ways, they are a counterpoint to the things we look for in wine – maturity, aging, a fullness of flavor that we equate with years in oak or steel followed by more in a cellar collecting dust. But for one day each year a new vintage steals the attention of oenophiles around the world, as they pronounce in unison, “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!”

In accordance with French law, each year’s vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be released until the third Thursday in November, about six weeks after harvest. The light red wine, which literally translates to “new Beaujolais,” is just that, the year’s new product made from 100 percent Gamay grapes in a wine-making region of France north of Lyon that stretches 34 miles north to south and seven to nine miles wide.

The 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau will be released on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 12:01 a.m.

The 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau will be released on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 12:01 a.m.

“It’s a dry red wine,” says Yann Bourigault, North American Export Director for famed winemaker Georges Duboeuf. “It is very fruity on the nose with some nice strawberries and raspberries jumping out of the glass. It has a very soft texture; it’s very round, almost silky. It’s a crowd pleaser.”

Every year crowds gather to celebrate the late fall release of the new vintage, after which more than 65 million bottles of the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau will be consumed around the world. The bright, artist-drawn labels on Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau bottles have become an icon for the entire industry. One of the wine’s largest producers, Bourigault estimates that Georges Duboeuf accounts for roughly 85% of the U.S. Beaujolais Nouveau market.

The popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau and the holiday celebrating its arrival, known as “Beaujolais Day,” have taken on extravagant proportions over the last few decades, but both can be traced to far more modest origins in 1950s France.

“At that time it was harder to keep the wine in good shape,” Bourigault says. “Most of the wine in restaurants were kept in barrels in the basement, and by the time the vintage was finished they were anxious to get the wine for the new year, because the older wine was starting to taste like vinegar.”

Today, wines are far better preserved, and contrary to popular belief the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau released this week will be at its best for 12 to 18 months. However, the excitement sipping from the first bottles to arrive from France can only be captured once a year, this Thursday morning, just after midnight.

At exactly 12:01 a.m. the first cases of 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau produced by Georges Duboeuf will arrive Strip side next to Paris Las Vegas via helicopter. Can-can dancers will then escort the wine to a celebrity host, who will officially kick off the bacchanalian festivities with a flip of the Eiffel Tower’s light switch, bathing the tower in red light for the remainder of the week.

The wine’s grand entrance is just the beginning of the hotel’s second annual Beaujolais Nouveau celebration, which includes numerous wine tasting events.

For those who prefer to sample this year’s vintage at home, Bourigault has a few suggestions to make the most of the wine. Chilling the wine slightly enhances its flavor, he says. Just a half an hour in the fridge should do. The wine also pairs well with a classic French onion soup or any sort of poultry, a Thanksgiving turkey, for instance. Or, Bourigault offers, try it with something totally unorthodox: “Barbecue. A lot of barbecue foods go extremely well with Beaujolais Nouveau.”

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