Beaujolais Nouveau Day is marked in France on the third Thursday in November. It is a tradition started when distributors raced to be the first to supply the Beaujolais Nouveau wine to Paris. It has become a great example of how marketing can take an ordinary product and make it into an exciting must-have experience.


The Beaujolais region is only small but home to nearly 4,000 vineyards. They make some of the finest grand crus (big vintage) wines. When the harvest season ended, the wine connoisseurs waited for their grapes to age but the peasants didn’t have the time, the means, or the desire to wait. They just wanted to celebrate the end of all their hard work.

Beaujolais Nouveau wine made from Gamay grapes, originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by the locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is the archetypal “vin ordinaire” (French for table wine).

Beaujolais Nouveau wine was mainly produced for local consumption particularly after the harvest because of its low cost. At first it proved difficult to sell any significant quantities to buyers elsewhere.


It all changed when in 1951, the Beaujolais marketing team led by Georges Duboeuf made the wine more profitable. They agreed to release the wine formally on the same date, 15 November. This later got fixed to the third Thursday of November, so they could profit from the following weekend sales. Now, under French law, the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released at 12:01 a.m. on this day.

They publicised the race to get the first bottles to Paris on the day it was released. Banners reading “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” appeared everywhere and the idea of a race to carry the wine to eager consumers grew into a worldwide event.

By the 1970s, Beaujolais Nouveau Day was well-known internationally, throughout Europe and in the USA particularly. I was in London the late 80s when there was much excitement and fanfare about Beaujolais Nouveau Day. The first case delivered to London was sold at auction for charity giving the organisation that bought it a bit of fame and publicity. It was like Melbourne Cup Day with businesses taking the afternoon off to drink Beaujolais in the pubs. It was all good fun.


The day was a huge marketing success in the 1970s to the 1990s. Selling wine that was according to critics—”watery and lacking a well-defined taste structure” had not been easy but Monsieur Duboeuf had turned a very unpretentious product into an event that put Beujolais Nouveau on centre stage for a day every year. It has fallen away a bit in the last two decades but I will be raising my glass to the marketing people of Beaujolais today (in the interest of marketing research).

Have a good Beaujolais Nouveau Day!