Food insecurity was a major problem in Europe right up until the beginning of the twentieth century, and a good harvest was never taken for granted. Traditionally, the harvest was celebrated in villages throughout France, Switzerland, and Southern Germany. It was a community undertaking with the butcher donating meat, local farmers donating vegetables, the local hardware store donating the use of a big pot, the closest winery donating a barrel of wine, etc. The entire village would gather in the town park on the appointed day for a feast of celebration.
The wine was always made from grapes that had been hanging on the vine just a couple of months before. It was a very fruity wine with no oak barrel aging. Although it was capable of lasting for a year or two, it was not an age-worthy wine. The most important characteristic was that it made a perfect pairing for simple food served during the village celebration.
By the mid-twentieth century, the tradition became commercialized and French Nouveau was all made from Gamay grapes grown in Beaujolais. Most of the Nouveau was made by two large “negotiants” who blended wine that came from several local growers. The wine was bottled in time to ship it to markets around the world for arrival by the third Thursday of November. In Paris, it was common for bars to feature the Beaujolais Nouveau with wine drawn directly from a barrel. But Beaujolais Nouveau was also shipped to places like Berkeley, California, and Tokyo so that it was available by the bottle. In Berkeley, an importer would join forces with a local restaurant and they would serve the wine with grilled sausages and other simple food in a California version of the traditional harvest celebration.
The Tassel Ridge Winery Iowa Nouveau will be available from many of our 450 retailers in Iowa on Thursday, November 18.