Beaujolais Nouveau

  1. By Michael Mathews
  2. On Nov.11.2013

On the third Thursday of each November, Saint Patrick along with the Currier Inn and the Weld Food Bank hosts a Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. It is a celebration that is unfamiliar to many, so perhaps it is best to offer some explanation. Much of what we need to know is incorporated in the name.

First, Beaujolais is a region of France. Unlike wines produced in most other countries that are named for the grape used in production, French wines are named for the region from which they are produced. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne & Beaujolais are all particular regions of France as opposed to Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay which are all grapes. So a Beaujolais wine is simply a wine from the Beaujolais region in the southeastern part of France just north of Lyon which exclusively uses the gamay grape in its wine production. Nouveau is the French word for new. So Beaujolais Nouveau is a “new” Beaujolais. And what makes a Beaujolais “new” is the production methods used. Beaujolais Nouveau is produced in two months. The grapes are harvested in September and hand picked so that they are not crushed. The bunches are then placed in vats and the juice is extracted by letting the weight of the grapes on the top crush the grapes on the bottom. When the juice at the bottom of the vat and begins to ferment, carbon dioxide is released and rises to the top enabling fermentation to occur inside the uncrushed grapes at the top. This process produces a lighter, more fruity wine that can be drunk soon after harvest time. The Beaujolais Nouveau has traditionally been the first wine released from a given year so a local celebration in Lyon evolved around its release each year - a celebration that has spread to over 190 countries.

Interesting as this all is, it hardly explains why a church would participate in such a celebration. Saint Patrick’s desire to celebrate the Beaujolais Nouveau stems from a desire to connect with the traditions of the ancient Church and those of the people of God throughout time. The introduction of the new wine has been celebrated since the Stone Age. It wasn’t called Beaujolais Nouveau and it didn’t arrive in a colorful bottle, but back before there were air-tight containers wine had a very short shelf-life because wine turns to vinegar when exposed to air. Therefore most people were able to drink wine only in the weeks of the year right after the harvest. The appearance of this young wine was eagerly anticipated each autumn and was often accompanied by a celebration similar to the one that accompanies the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau. God gave the Hebrew people such a celebration in providing a thanksgiving festival called the Feast of Booths. Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, wine production was an important part of the Hebrew harvest. Speaking of the Feast of Booths in Deuteronomy God calls his people to “rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns.” For this reason we want the joy of our Beaujolais Nouveau celebration to overflow to the wider community and benefit those in the community who are in the most need. Each of the last 2 years we have raised over $5,000 for the Weld Food Bank which the Food Bank has then used to purchase $50,000 worth of food. This year we hope to raise even more. We also hope this celebration will continue to grow, and that the people of Saint Patrick will begin to see it as the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday - a holiday in which we grow more thankful and more generous as we remember God’s grace and abundant provision.