How to: Throw a Beaujolais nouveau party
Want beaucoup fun? Kick off the holiday season by throwing a Beaujolais nouveau party. Beaujolais nouveau is a very young wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. Made from grapes picked earlier that same fall, the wine ferments for mere weeks before being bottled and hitting wine store shelves. In France, each year's release is eagerly awaited, with the third Thursday of November being the day when wine lovers crow, "Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!" While the wines are being shipped well before, stores are forbidden to slip them onto the shelves until release day. The fanfare adds to the frisson, we think.
Beaujolais nouveau wines are light, purple-pink, fruity, and considered by wine snobs to be "easy drinking", (sometimes with a sniff of derision). Other experts call them "joyful" in flavour. No heavy tannins, no need to break out the wine-tasting moves you picked up at that workshop: skip the sniffing and twirling and sucking in air through your puckered lips like a fish: just pour, enjoy, repeat. Add chatty guests, low-effort/highly yummy French charcuterie nibbles, and you've got the fixings for a sophisticated gathering with a decidedly un-pompous, casual air. Don't think of it as a "tasting": think of it as a great excuse for a party. Here's how to pull it off with flair.
Beaujolais nouveau party: The vibe
Casual, conversational, fun and definitely stylish, but with a certain je ne sais quoi. How you say? Ah, oui: Not trying too hard. Pretty up your house with fresh flowers and candlelight, but don't get too fussy. Think stand-up, move-around party, not sit-down dinner, and don't gather people around and walk them through a tasting. Your everyday white plates are fine, and both stemware or rustic tumblers will do for the wine. Disposable cocktail plates are okay, though for a more eco-friendly option, try super-stylish biodegradable bamboo plates, or renting plates from a party supply house. (BONUS: you return them as-is and don't have to wash them!)
Put on your classic French chanteurs et chanteuses Charles Aznavour, Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf, Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin et al, or, if you want something more contemporary, consider Carla Bruni or Air. Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt offer a timeless late-night jazz sound. Or cue up your iTunes radio to a French station.
Beaujolais nouveau party: The menu
Gallic, naturellement! A cocktail-party approach is perfect when you have many guests and want a fun, celebratory mood. The classic French charcuterie platter is a must-serve at any Beaujolais nouveau party. Charcuterie offerings typically include a couple patés, petite sausages (you could grill them the night before, refrigerate them, then re-heat in the oven the night-of), and an assortment of little savories like black olives, cornichons, mustard and breads like baguette or whole-grain peasant loaf. Make sure to prominently feature a cheese board, with an assortment of cheeses ranging from mild to… challenging, from mellow Brie to pungeant Roquefort. A nice five-cheese assortment might consist of Brie, Camembert, Morbier, Mimolette and Roquefort. Later on, a tray of madeleines, truffles or petits fours would be a sweet way to end the night. (Feel free to brew up a carafe of coffee to go-with.)
Beaujolais nouveau party: When
Schedule your party for release day if you're eager to quaff on the day of the release. Thursday is the new Friday, after all. If not, schedule your party for another early-winter night, but don't procrastinate: tradition dictates that each year's Beaujolais nouveau should be drunk before New Year's Day.