It’s that time of year again! On the third Thursday of every November, the French find yet another reason to celebrate life with a glass of wine. The Beaujolais Nouveau is released on this day, and its arrival is fêted in style in cafés, bistros and restaurants all over the country. See more at: http://www.intowine.com/beaujolais2.html
It’s a big deal. Johann and his co-workers started the festivities early, as the restaurant that delivers lunch to his office included a complimentary bottle of Beaujolais for every four lunches ordered that day. He spent the afternoon sobering up, then hit the road to come and collect me for an evening of wine-tasting in Cadenet. We started at the new and trendy Café Zinc, where we met our British friends Jan and Paul.
Unfortunately, though, we found that Café Zinc was not only serving special Beaujolais Nouveau dinners at thirty euros each ($38, a bit pricey for our budgets) but also that they were booked solid. Fine. That had just been “plan A” anyway. Our intention had actually been to go there and have one glass of wine and soak up the fancy atmosphere before going to our regular hangout, Antoine’s, where they know us and give us free drinks. So off we went.
Antoine had made a half-hearted attempt to make the place look festive. A meager strand of colored lights hung over the outdoor terrace. Our brows furrowed as we approached the bar and its emptiness started to register. What was going on? Where was everybody? Why was the place completely deserted? We all had fond memories of enjoying Beaujolais Nouveau there in previous years. Well, as much as a very young red wine that is being drunk way before its prime just for the sake of tradition can be enjoyed, that is. That’s the fun, you see. Once a year, you and your pals go out, drink some very sharp, cheap, acidic wine and wash it down with some complimentary snacks. Everyone else in town is doing the same, and you all trade notes on exactly how much worse you think this year’s batch is than last year’s. Then you all order another bottle for your table and smile winningly at the girl distributing the free appetizers. It’s tradition.
Antoine had decided to pass on the whole thing this year, though. They had just purchased a second bar. His wife had been sick. He just became a grandfather. He had a lot going on. So he decided to skip it all. There wasn’t a single bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau in the house. It seemed adulturous to our adopted homeland to go home empty-handed on this night intended for the idolization of the indomitable French grape, though, so we ordered a couple of pizzas from Antoine, grabbed a couple of bottles of good wine and went back to Jan and Paul’s to enjoy it all in front of their roaring fire. Call us faithless friends of France if you will, but there’s something to be said for celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau without having to drink a drop of it.