Thousands of corks will be popped on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday of November, to ring in the holiday season. At least 15,000 beverage alcohol retailers throughout the U.S. will participate in this year’s festivities. “Retailers are getting posters, floor stickers, banners, ties, scarves, and whatever is legal in their state,” says Dennis Kreps, co-founder of Napa Valley-based Quintessential Wines, which imports segment leader Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. “The wine has developed and changed and gotten better over time. Harvests have been a little warmer in Beaujolais, so the wines have a more fruit-forward style.”
Though production of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau vintage is down, the quality is considered good. Quintessential worked with its distributors and Duboeuf in order to not pass the cost of increased tariffs on French wines over to U.S. consumers. “It was pretty tough timing for Nouveau and I was really impressed with how Duboeuf came to the table,” Kreps says.
About 95% of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau in the U.S. is sold at the retail tier, with New York, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, and California leading the way in sales. “We are bringing new consumers into the program and educating them about what Nouveau is all about,” Kreps says.
Beyond traditional retailing, some merchants are creating unique ways to promote Beaujolais Nouveau Day. At Metro Wines in Asheville, North Carolina on November 23, author Cynthia Drew will sign copies of her mystery novel, Nouveau Noir, and a Beaujolais Nouveau tasting will follow. At the tasting, Andy Hale, director of the Asheville School of Wine and Blind Tasting League, will pour Jean Paul Brun L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau ($19 a 750-ml.), Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau ($20), Pierre Chermette Les Griottes Beaujolais Nouveau ($15), and Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau ($15) for Metro Wines’ customers. “With pomegranate, cranberry, and red raspberry flavors, Beaujolais Nouveau goes well with Thanksgiving dinner,” Hale observes. The tasting and book signing, along with other events, are included in Metro Wines’ weekly Sunday email, sent to more than 2,000 subscribers.
Austin, Texas-based Twin Liquors, which encompasses 85 stores and 11 Marketplace locations, plans to promote Beaujolais Nouveau Day through social media and email, weekend specials, advertisements, and in-store features focused on Georges Duboeuf. “The holiday wine kick-off naturally starts in early November, but Beaujolais Nouveau Day does pave the way for more specific Thanksgiving wine conversations,” says Sandra Spalding, director of marketing at the chain.
Planning for Duboeuf’s release this year began in March with Quintessential Wines’ contest for artists to create a label for the 2019 vintage ($13 a 750-ml.). “The biggest marketing push is the label contest, which engaged more than 1 million consumers, including 680 art submissions and more than 1,300 Instagram posts this year,” Kreps says. “The artwork represents the vintage and the first wine of the harvest. Retailers are getting all the traditional point-of-sale stuff and it’s all tied to the artwork of Laura Runge, this year’s winning artist.”
Last year, Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau grew about 3% to approximately 95,000 9-liter cases in the U.S., including 11,000 cases of rosé. “The tough part about rosé is we have to start talking to Georges Duboeuf in May about how much rosé we want, so they can start working with the vineyards,” Kreps says. “They manage the vineyards to produce the right style of rosé so a lot more work goes into it. The vineyards are managed for higher acidity to produce a fresher, crisper rosé. They’re really excited about what they’ve done with the rosé this year.”
Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau will be promoted at about 200 consumer events through retailers and restaurateurs and at another 20 at French American Chamber of Commerce events nationwide. The main event will be the Beaujolais 2019 French Food & Wine Festival at Union Station at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Some 1,500 people, including Georges Duboeuf, founder of his namesake brand, and Runge plan to attend. “We want to maintain the traditional Nouveau base and bring in new consumers through art and scholarships the artists can win,” Kreps says.
Gina Trippi, co-owner, of Metro Wines, says Beaujolais wines are popular at her shop throughout the year. “People inherently know Beaujolais speaks of the joy of life and that’s why it’s good at the holidays,” she says. “It says ‘joy’ like nothing else.”
There are high expectations for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. “We are about to witness a quality revolution in Beaujolais Nouveau,” Asheville School’s Hale says. “Beaujolais Nouveau will always be around. It’s a fun tradition and something I’ve done every year for my Thanksgiving, and it will always be on my table.”