PARIS -- The wine world's best-known party is beginning -- the ritual uncorking of Beaujolais Nouveau every November. That's both a curse and a blessing for the famed French region and its lesser-known yet finer wines.
Beaujolais Nouveau is easy to drink, but everything a fine wine is not: young, poor in tannins and not suited to storage. It's partially because new wines could never hope to stir the imagination the way the great wines of Bordeaux or Champagne do that the makers of Beaujolais Nouveau resorted to what has become a hugely successful marketing campaign.
As they do every year, bars and wine shops the world over uncorked the first bottles of the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau at midnight on Wednesday. What started as the first chance to taste a vintage in Paris years ago has led to parties as far away as Japan and the United States.
"The party has started," said Bernard Rogue-Bouge as wine flowed from a barrel in his Au Petit Chavignol Restaurant in Paris. "Cheers! To the Beaujolais!"
Wineries that make Beaujolais Nouveau export a larger proportion of their wine than any other producer in France, sending about 47 per cent of their harvest abroad every year. The biggest market is Japan, which drank nearly 9 million bottles of it last year and which also typically has the privilege of uncorking their bottles before anyone else. The U.S. downed more than 2 million bottles in 2012.
The campaign has been so successful that growers of finer wines in Beaujolais, just north of the eastern French city of Lyon, wonder if they've created a monster that obscures everything else they do. Beaujolais Nouveau makes up about one-third of wines made in the region every year.
"Beaujolais represents only 0.3 per cent of the land under cultivation for wine... and yet it's one of the most well-known wines in the entire world," said Jean Bourjade of the professional association of Beaujolais growers, Inter Beaujolais. "(That's) thanks to Beaujolais Nouveau. No one regrets that."
By French government decree, the wines cannot be sold before the third Thursday in November.
Manitoba Liquor Marts stocks the 2013 Georges Dubìuf Beaujolais Nouveau for $16.95, while some of Winnipeg's eight private wine stores have imported Beaujolais Nouveau from other producers as well.
--The Associated Press