When it comes to wine, age is just a number. Just ask the French in the Beaujolais region, who celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau every third Thursday in November to great fanfare. The festival commences with the release of that year’s vintage at exactly 12:01 a.m., followed by several days of wine tasting, live music and food.
Beaujolais Nouveau—made with gamay grapes that by law must be harvested by hand and produced within the Beaujolais AOC—is actually intended to be enjoyed young, generally within weeks of the harvest. It’s made using a process called carbonic maceration, or whole-berry maceration, which lets the fruit flavors come through without extracting the bitter tannins from the grape skins. The result is a highly quaffable, fresh and fruity wine that is usually served a little chilled and which pairs well with meat.
“Beaujolais Nouveau is less about the wine itself and more about the tradition, about celebrating the first harvest and celebrating life itself,” says Paul Peterson, head sommelier and beverage manager at Bouchon in the Venetian.
Joining in the now worldwide celebration, Bouchon will offer a prix fixe menu Nov. 19-22, featuring the 2015 Jean Foillard Beaujolais Nouveau, which is produced near Morgon, a grand cru village in Beaujolais ($45, 702-414-6200, ThomasKeller.com). The three-course meal begins with house-made garlic sausage in brioche with marinated vegetables, followed by a main course of bouef Bourguignon (natch) and ends with a dark chocolate mousse.
“Every year is different, but because of [favorable] conditions, this year’s harvest should be of great quality,” Peterson says. If you haven’t taken part in this very French holiday, this would be a good time to start.