Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé! Here begins my running commentary on Beaujolais Day, the 16th of November. I’m just about finished with a major project, so now I’m ready for a new start. Maybe the new wine will help turn the trick.
12:30 a.m. The wine is released at midnight, so I took a walk around the town to see what was happening. I walked up rue Albert 1ere to the Place DeGaulle. Above, a city worker stood in a cherrypicker hanging Christmas decorations from the streetlamps. The doors were open at the big restaurant facing the Place, pumping the pop music into the street. Inside, a couple sat drinking beers while the bartender rinsed out glasses. I moved on.
Aside from two kids on a motorcycle, the rue de la Republique was completely empty as I walked into la Vieille Ville – the medieval district. I passed the empty storefronts and the darkened windows of the apartments above street level. From time to time I caught a glimpse of the motorcyclists as they wove their way through the labyrinthine streets. Even the Irish pub down by the marina was closed. The barkeep at the otherwise-empty La Porte du Port talked loudly into his portable phone. A guy and his dog slept next to one another in one of the shop doorways, feeling grateful perhaps for the persistently fine weather. I walked under the strings of Christmas lights draping the old covered market – I’d never seen it complety deserted before. Climbing the stone stairs, I headed over to the medieval ramparts that overlook the sea. Behind me the lights outlined the Baie des Anges sweeping its long unbroken arc from Nice to Antibes. Soon I found myself back at the apartment.
2:00 p.m. Anne and I walked over to the InterMarché supermarket just up the street. Immediately upon entering the store we encounter some guy wearing a sport coat and tie, microphone in hand, standing in front of a huge display featuring lots and lots of bottles of new Beaujolais from maybe six different vignobles. He’s there to tout the product. I’ve never seen this before at the InterMarché. Maybe the sceptics are right about this whole thing being a marketing scam. So what, we agree. Just this morning we watched the guy who runs the wine store around the corner making a home delivery to our next-door neighbor, a very old French lady who’s not about to jump on every fad that comes down the rue.
We approach the guy with the mike; he asks us if we want a sample. Bien sûr. He hands us the little plastic cups, and we sip as if this was some sort of fancy wine. It’s fine, we agree. We buy two bottles: a Georges Duboeuf (the acknowledged godfather of Beaujolais and the marketing genius behind new Beaujolais day) and a vintage produced by the regional cooperative. The prices: 7 euros for the Duboeuf, 2,50 for the other one. We pick up a slice of duck paté and a saucisse from the deli and head for the exits. We stop at the boulangerie next door to pick up a baguette, and now we’re done shopping.
When we get home we lay out a simple charcuterie lunch, perfect for new wine: the paté and smoked sausage along with some dried ham, a plate with four kinds of cheese, a little green salad, the baguette, a bowlful of clementines. Two wine glasses. We decide to open the Duboeuf. Everything is delicious. The wine is crisp and fresh, not deep or extravagant – just the way it’s supposed to be. Half a bottle later we’re ready for a nap.
[Note: My wife is compiling links to expatriate blog entries on Beaujolais Day at blueVicar.