Beaujolais region wants to change image
The 2010 Beaujolais Noveau arrives today but the French region associated with the fruity red wants to change its image to protect older, finer wines.
In what has become a global wine ritual, just after midnight on the third Thursday of November, corks began popping around the world, starting in Japan, celebrating this year's newly harvested Beaujolais.
Made from the Gamay Noir grape, the light tipple with a hint of banana, best served slightly chilled, has become a global marketing phenomenon and is one of the few wines allowed under French law to be sold during its year of harvest.
But overproduction, variable quality and the arrival of other 'primeurs' – "new vintages" – have led to sales halving in the past five years to around 36 million bottles in 2010. Meanwhile, discerning drinkers often dismiss the drink as little better than glorified grape juice.
"We have damaged our image a little bit too much by focusing on the Nouveau," admitted Dominique Capart, president of l'Interbeaujolais, the region's wine board.
"We have to stop people saying when a bottle of Beaujolais is put on the table: 'Oh no thank you, I prefer something else' because they don't know what's inside," he told the Daily Telegraph.
To counter this, the region is now pumping 75pc of its marketing funds into promoting its 'vins de garde' – wines that can be kept for years, such as Fleurie, Saint-Amour or Juliénas.
"A wine like Moulin à Vent can rival any top Burgundy but the problem is many people are unaware our top wines from Beaujolais," said Mr Capart.
That said, the region is keen not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs – Beaujolais Nouveau still accounts for a third of its sales and year's vintage was hailed one of the best on record.
Critics describe this year's Nouveau as supple, lively and with strong hints of red fruit.