Rain and Wine

cafe Elysees Brebant
Rain on a winter afternoon, on the Champs-Elysées.

Some People Talk about the Weather,
Others Drink Beaujolais Instead

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Tuesday, 25. November 1997:- Last week Paris had true fall weather - with touches of morning fog to ease the boredom of plain rain for early-morning drivers who failed to notice it until it was too late to slow down.

This had no effect last Thursday as the Beaujolais Nouveau was rolled out with its customary fanfare. This wine is like the start beaujolais drinkers of a season of its own, as producers come to Paris and set up 'Fêtes du Vin' at various locations around the city - just in time to snare holiday money before it gets spent on otherwise useless gifts.

These people were in focus before this started, but then they blitzed me.

The big department stores unveiled their seasonally decorated display windows during the week, and although I have some photos of these already, I'll save them until there is a full set.

Regular readers will know that I often do not know what any particular issue will contain in advance - but even I surprised myself by doing cars this week.

If I hung out in all the bars and cafés that you probably already imagine me spending all of my time, I would never get an idea to take a tour of the Champs-Elysées auto showrooms, in the rain.

Before doing it I did know it would be nearly dark and with the rain there would be all the reflections from the lights, which matched the reflections on shiny paint; so let's say it was an 'artistic' impulse of a sort.

Third Thursday in November: Beaujolais Nouveau Day

After 20 years I cannot remember this, so I have written it as a headline in the hopes I will be ready for it at dawn next year.

With the weather we had in summer, the grapes for this concoction were picked early; starting 30. August. This permitted picking the exactly right moment to harvest the grapes, and so this year's version should have a slight edge over previous years.

All the same, there is always somebody with a 'nose' who will give it a try and then say, "Okay, can we drink some real wine now?"

Given the amount of hype surrounding Beaujolais Nouveau I expected to see people staggering all over town on Friday, but this was not the case. All the papers give it a mention on Thursday; the hundreds of wine bars feature it throughout the day and until the supply is finished - and then wine life in Paris returns to its discretely normal status of being around but largely unobtrusive.

Occasional sippers of wine probably buy most of it in one-bottle lots, but regular wine fans will usually only drink it in small amounts, to be polite. One tester said, "This 1997, it is an almost serious wine," and that about sums it up.

The other way of looking at it is, for these 'occasional sippers' it might be the only time in the year when they sit down with friends and a couple of bottles, and polish off some good chartcuterie, stout bread and cheese, and have a thoroughly agreeable time doing it.

This year French producers have put 55 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau on the market, which is about a third of total Beaujolais production.

Le Parisien says that 'typically' French Beaujolais Nouveau enjoys a grand success throughout the world - with an absence of any publicity. Forty percent of the export volume goes to Germany, where I have seen it consumed like... beer. Other large percentages beaujolais bottles go to Britain, Switzerlan and the USA. Apparently Canada prefers Italian 'primeurs' because they get an earlier start and come by sea, which makes them cheaper to buy.


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