The French may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but on the third Thursday of November they find something of their own to be thankful for: wine. To be specific, the yearly vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, an unpretentious, freshly harvested and frankly fruity red wine that hails from the southern half of the Beaujolais region.
Starting on “Beaujolais Nouveau day” and for a period of weeks after that, people across France celebrate the latest crop by imbibing it– sometimes to excess– in joyful public settings.
In Paris, some wine shops and bars offer free tastings or “dégustations” of the wine made from Gamay grapes. At other places, you can enjoy inexpensive tastings after midnight on release day.
In addition to wines from the Beaujolais Nouveau appellation (the French term for “origin” and the regulations that surround it), counterparts from Beaujolais Villages Nouveau are also introduced and tasted. Wines are generally accompanied by cheese, charcuterie and other snacks.
But for epicurean travelers willing to stay up past midnight, feting the arrival of the latest vintage is an excellent way to participate in a cherished annual tradition.
You can also stick to just one or two glasses– no one’s keeping count. Keep reading to learn more about the ritual, and where to head in 2019 for tastings in Paris.
Read related: Review of Eating Europe’s Food & Wine Tour of Paris
Oh, and one word of warning: if you’re a wine snob, you may want to abstain. Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais Villages Nouveau are simple and fresh wines that are generally only aged for a few weeks; their direct flavors and low tannins help explain their worldwide popularity.
However, these same qualities tend to disappoint those in search of more complex and challenging wines. They’re also more than a little on the hit-and-miss side: some years, the finished result is very palatable, while other years it’s well, terrible.
But in my sense, that’s all part of the fun: finding out whether the current harvest is any good.
A Bit of History and Context: The Origins of Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations
The story behind the ritual isn’t especially romantic: in fact, it mostly comes down to administrative and bureaucratic constraints! In 1951, new legislation in France made it mandatory for new wines commercialized under the appellation d’origine controlée label (essentially guaranteeing their authenticity and quality) to be put to market no earlier than December 15th. But wine unions, including ones in the Beaujolais region, protested.
A compromise was reached: if the “Nouveau” label was added to indicate that the wines were young, they could go to market as early as November. It wasn’t until 1985 that the release date was officially set for the third Thursday of November.
But how did the enthusiasm for celebrating the wines’ arrival grow so strong, not only in France but around the world? A vintner named Georges Duboeuf is largely credited for the present-day ritual.
Duboeuf, a producer of Beaujolais Nouveau, reasoned that savvy marketing campaigns would aid in selling large quantities of the new wine, drawing in solid revenue and profits directly following harvest season.
This led to the creation of the well-known slogan Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! (Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!), now ubiquitously plastered in bar and wine shop windows around France from the third Thursday of November.
During the 1970s, an annual race celebrating the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau and transporting the first bottles of the new vintage to Paris was another marketing coup, generating significant media buzz. Today, runners can take part in the International Beaujolais Marathon (or in shorter races).
In short, while the tradition is relatively recent, it has become as deeply anchored a ritual as older ones in France.
When is Beaujolais Nouveau Released in 2020?
This year, the young wine will be released from production estates for commercialization much earlier than usual due to the global pandemic and warm weather leading to earlier harvest, on October 5th, 2020.
But it will still be “celebrated” through various commercial promotions on Thursday, November 19th, 2020.
Read related: Why to Visit the Musée du Vin (Wine Museum) in Paris
In Paris, numerous bars begin serving the new wine just after midnight on Thursday– the occasion for an enjoyable night out, if you can stay up for it.
In 2020, Public Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations Are Largely Cancelled Amid Lockdown
Editor’s Note: Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis and a national lockdown in France that has led to bars, restaurants and other “nonessential” businesses closing until at least December 1st, Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations are largely cancelled in Paris and the rest of France this year. Tasters can still privately enjoy the new wine within the comfort of their own home or lodging, but public celebrations are, sadly, off the table in 2020.
Most years, you’ll find wine bars around the city offering tastings– some free, but most charging a reasonable amount for a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau or Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau.
Tuck into a cheese or charcuterie platter– sausage is one very traditional accompaniment– and bask in the autumnal festivities.
Many bars serve the wine directly from barrels to amp up the convivial vibe, and it’s also common to see them decorated with haystacks, gourds and pumpkins and other fall garb.
The clickable map below (in French) shows a huge number of places celebrating this year. Click on the left-hand tab with the right-pointing arrow to see a list; “Paris intra-muros” designates bars within the city limits rather than those in the near and distant suburbs.
The following list of bars serving the new wines in 2019 was retrieved at Evous.fr. Find the arrondissement (district) you’re staying in and beeline to one or two bars nearby. You can also just walk around after midnight on Thursday the 21st and find a bar feting the occasion with tastings. Enjoy!
1st arrondissement (75001)
– A LA CLOCHE DES HALLES : 26, Rue Coquillière
– BISTROT VALOIS : 1, Bis Place Valois
– CHEZ DOMINIQUE F : 23, Rue Daniel Casanova
– LE BISTROT DES HALLES : 15, Rue des Halles
– LE BISTROT DES VICTOIRES : 6, Rue La Vrillière
– LE RUBIS : 10, Rue du Marché-Saint-Honoré
2nd arrondissement (75002)
– LA GRAPPE D’OR : 5, Rue des Petits Carreaux
– LE BOUGAINVILLE : 5, Rue de la Banque
– LE GAVROCHE : 19, Rue Saint-Marc
– LE MESTURET : 77, Rue Richelieu
– LES NOCES DE JEANNETTE : 14, Rue Favart
3rd arrondissement (75003)
– LE BAROMETRE : 17, Rue Charlot
– LE BARRICOU : 1, Boulevard du Temple
– LE ROYAL TURENNE : 24, Rue de Turenne
4th arrondissement (75004)
– LA TARTINE : 24, Rue de Rivoli
– MA BOURGOGNE : 19, Place des Vosges
5th arrondissement (75005)
– AU MOULIN A VENT : 20, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard
– LA PETITE PERIGOURDINE : 39, Rue des Ecoles
– LE MAUZAC : 7, Rue De l’Abbé de l’Epée
– LE ROYAL SAINT-JACQUES : 263, Rue Saint-Jacques
– LE VIN QUI DANSE : 4, Rue des Fossés Saint Jacques
6th arrondissement (75006)
– CAFE AU CHAI DE L’ABBAYE : 26, Rue Buci
– CAFE COMPTOIR TOURNON : 18, Rue Tournon
– CHEZ MARCEL : 7, Rue Stanislas
– LES RACINES : 22, Rue Monsieur le Prince
7th arrondissement (75007)
– LES VIEILLES VIGNES : 149, Rue de l’Université
8th arrondissement (75008)
– L’ABORDAGE : 2, Place Henri Bergson
– LA CAVE BEAUVAU : 4, Rue des Saussaies
– LE COIN : 88, Rue du Rocher
– LE ROND POINT : 6/8, Rue Jean Mermoz
– LE VIN QUI DANSE : 9, Rue de Moscou
– LES COUPOLES : 55, Rue des Mathurins
9th arrondissement (75009)
– BOURGOGNE SUD : 14, Rue de Clichy
10th arrondissement (75010)
– L’ENCHOTTE : 11, Rue Chabrol
– LE REVEIL DU 10ème : 35, Rue du Château d’Eau
11th arrondissement (75011)
– BISTROT PAUL BERT : 18, Rue Paul Bert
– LE BERGER : 17, Place de la Nation
– LE GALLIA : 39, Rue Saint-Ambroise
12th arrondissement (75012)
– LE DUC DE RICHELIEU : 5, Rue Parrot
13th arrondissement (75013)
– VERBALON : 198 BIS, Rue de Tolbiac
14th arrondissement (75014)
– AU METRO 14 : 66, Rue Raymond Losserand
– L’OPPORTUN : 62/64, Boulevard Edgar Quinet
– LE BISTROT D’A COTE : 16/18, Rue Lalande
– LE DAUDET : 16, Rue Alphonse Daudet
– LE GRAND COMPTOIR : 125, Rue d’Alésia
– LE PLAN B : 89, Rue Daguerre
– LE REVEIL SAMARITAIN : 3, Boulevard Saint-Jacques
15th arrondissement (75015)
– DIS VINS GAULOIS : 72, Rue Dutot
– L’AUVERGNE A PARIS : 30, Rue Peclet / 102, Rue Blomet
– LE CAFE DU COMMERCE : 51, Rue du Commerce
– LE MINZINQUE : 5, Place Etienne Pernet
16th arrondissement (75016)
– LES CAVES ANGEVINES : 2, Place Léon Deubel
17th arrondissement (75017)
– AU PETIT CHAVIGNOL : 78, Rue de Tocqueville
– LA BONNE HEURE : 11, Rue Brochant
– LE BOUGNAT : 15, Rue Torricelli
18th arrondissement (75018)
– AU BON COIN : 49, Rue des Cloys
– LA BONNE FRANQUETTE : 2, Rue des Saules / 18, Rue Saint-Rustique
– LA CAVE A JOJO : 26, Rue des Trois Frères
– LA MASCOTTE : 52, Rue des Abesses
– LA PART DES ANGES : 10, Rue Garreau
– LE COLIBRI : 35, Rue Veron
– LE SQUARE MARCADET : 227, bis Rue Marcadet
– MARGUERITE : 50, Rue de Clignancourt
– AU METRO DES LILAS : 261, Avenue Gambetta
20th arrondissement (75020)
– LE BISTROT DES SOUPIRS : 49, Rue de la Chine