November 15th 2018 was, as the saying goes, a Red-Letter Day for any devotee of French culture. Even those of us who do not drink alcohol could not fail to have ignored “Beaujolais Nouveau Day”, which is traditionally marked by any number of fireworks displays, music and celebratory festivals. It is all very different from this writer’s early youth, in which the latest keg of Watney’s Red Barrel was often marked by several people falling over outside the local off-licence. I cannot help but think that France has a more fun tradition.
The wine was initially devised as affordable vin de l’année for locals to celebrate the end of the season. The “Nouveau” name originated in 1951, and it is released at 12:01 am shortly after the harvest. Some clever marketing types devised a race of the first bottles of the new vintage to Paris as a promotional tool and from 1985 onwards Beaujolais Nouveau Day fell on the third Thursday of November.
Some readers may associate the wine with Britain of the 1980s; yuppies who wore industrial amounts of hair gel, mobile telephones the size of a brick and very badly cut suits. However, according to a 2014 interview with Anne McHale, the master of wine at Berry Bros and Rudd, ‘it was a huge success based on marketing. But it declined in the 1990s when too many producers jumped on the bandwagon, and the quality declined’.
And so, why not make use of the extensive grounds of Château de Bois Giraud by staging your own party? Chilled bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau (of course), period clothes, Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give You Up on the CD player and, perhaps the ideal finishing touch, DVDs of Howards’ Way. N.B. If you do decide to create such an event, remember that a) the French are tolerant of eccentrics by and large, and b) the gardens are not overlooked by any neighbours.