le beaujolais est arrivé!
the second time i was in paris, i remember how audacious it felt to purchase the flight. i’d already spent time in paris, a few years back, but the city had been pulling at my soul since i left. it jad settled into a part of my heart that i didn’t know was there, much less vacant and seeking. it was filled, immediately, with a first glance of la tour eiffel, lit up and sparkling. with my first ascension up the tight spiral staircase of the arc de triomphe to reveal the city of light, illuminating my face, staring back at it. the first time. my first promenade down the rue de montparnasse, my first glass of wine in a dark and hidden bar in montmarte, my first full day wandering around the palace and gardens of versailles. my understanding, finally, of the inside-out centre pompidou and all the treasure held within it. my first real baguette.
paris had more than charmed me, it had changed me. and so the first trip i planned with my barely-there paycheck upon moving to spain was to a place i had already been. and i was in love of the audacity of it all. after i landed, i navigated my way by bus through a drizzly evening from charles de gaulle and sat with my face glued to the window. paris. i was back in paris.
i inevitably missed what i thought was my stop and realized that i was terribly lost. i got a cab to the address i had of a friend of mine from years ago. i knew i had 2 hours before he’d be home, so i wandered down the champs elysees, through the christmas markets, that even 6 weeks early seemed so so timely. i indulged in a rather shitty styrofoam cup of mulled wine. i shamelessly didn’t hold back tears. i was so, so happy. when my pack got a bit too heavy, i wandered into a bar along a side street. it was small, crowded. audaciously devoid of intentional decor and exactly the type of cafe you expect in paris. i loved it. as i tried to awkwardly make room for my travelers backpack, my overstuffed leather tote, my distinctively unchic pea coat, the felt hat that i thought was a good idea and now realized really wasn’t a good idea… i was tried to be as inconspicious as possible when someone gleefully shoved an antique looking juice glass into my hand. i looked up. “le beaujolais nouveau est arrive!” i looked noticeably dumfounded, confused. he repeated himself, in hesitant english “uhh, the new wine has arrived!” i was more confused. the new wine? didn’t i come here for the old wine? he didn’t bother explaining, just toasted me with intention and motioned for me to drink up. i did, and almost immediately the bartender was there filling my glass over the brim. everyone was dancing and singing, sipping and spilling. no one seemed to notice the spanish flag patch sewn onto my backpack or my obvious lack of any knowledge of french. it was all “congratulations!” and two kisses and wine. wine. wine.
i spilled out of the bar and onto the street, late now to meet the friend i was staying with. i hailed a cab. on they way i caught a glimpse of the eiffel tower lighting up, again, and began to cry. paris! my god the beauty of it all.
when i arrived at my friend’s apartment, i asked him what was happening. and he laughed when he told me, “oh of course, the new wine!” the explanation he went into was brief but with enough passion to make me realize that this would be my favorite reason to celebrate for the rest of my life.
during the rest of my stay in paris and consequently as the jubilant weekend wore on, i learned that the legend of “beaujolais day” and was captivated even more. the story, as i heard it, is as follows.
In a land where wine is held so sacred and for good reason- Chablis, Champagne, Bourdeaux to name a few, Beaujolais was virtually unrecognized and not nearly revered. so the winemakers of the region set off to charm and fool everyone in the frenchest of ways, by letting their reputation recede them… provided they successfully outran it. one bold winemaker picked and fermented his grapes. aging it for exactly one week, he raced into Paris and announced that the parisians would be drinking that year’s vintage Beaujolais before anyone else in the world. And it would be up to their discerning taste and opinions that would mark that wine’s character and reputation. He risked a non-existent reputation and the hope that the Parisians wouldn’t ever want to appear foolish or not en-vogue. and the people of paris embraced it, they beheld it, they drank it. The next year, more winemakers decided to join, racing against each other on the third thursday of November to declare their Beaujolais Nouveau the first of that year. And from that vintage on they continued to do so, and the people of paris began to embrace it and revere it more and more, in spite of themselves. And so they made it a holiday, a jubilant weekend-long celebration, a commemoration of a bold marketing ploy and when something so unfrench became something oh-so-French.
And this is why we travel. For the wonder and bewilderment of that initial arrival, for discovering such a beautiful tradition in a foreign land to embrace, forever, as your own, and for that irrepressible feeling and adventurous spirit that is forever us. because you and I and le Beaujolais nouveau have all arrived.