Beaujolais Nouveau Day

On November 9th, the first shipment of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau arrived at Narita airport with a fair amount of pomp and noise. The 3,500 cases, containing roughly 40,000 bottles were held until, under French law, it was allowed to go on sale this November 15th. In total 8.4 million bottles are expected to be imported.

As with all fads there was a bit of a hoopla around last week's first sales. Pretty much all alcohol outlets had special stands with plastic cups for tasting. Small stands were erected in the entrance halls of department stores so customers didn’t have to go downstairs to the food show to be hit in the face with French. I went to a central Tokyo department store to pick me up a bottle. A small crowd of mostly women and young couples were milling around. As I stood in line for a taster I could see the angsty look in the face of the women dishing out the samples, quickly replaced by relief when I talked to her in Japanese. She gave me a thimble-full of Taillevent, which was hardly enough for a taste, but I ended up buying a bottle anyway. It’s a cheeky little wine, but I prefer something a little more mature and full-bodied.

Though Japan isn’t as hung up on wine as a lot of European countries are, there is some interest. Wines are becoming increasingly popular amongst women, but we have thankfully yet to see any real armchair snobbery, or, sadly, supermarkets offering affordable yet good wines. For the good stuff you need to go to specialist shops or Shinjuku’s very much imposing Isetan’s winery which is laid out like a jewelry store and has attendants in evening suits and white gloves as well as detailed information on heritage and taste for all the wines on offer. It’s the kind of place where the cash register is hidden from view, which makes it look exclusive.

This increased interest in wine however did not help sales of EA’s “Sommelier DS”, which apparently tanked badly. Tto coincide with the release of this year’s wines, also saw the new “Wine no Hajimekata DS” by Square-Enix. Having a little more of a game element to it, it may fare better, but one wonders if people care enough. That said, it’s young women who like the wines and it’s mostly young women who love their DS, so it may be a marriage made in heaven. The special edition comes with a bottle of wine so I presume that would make it an Adults Only title. I wonder if they have to put it amongst the porn and gore games in the shops. That’s a thought.

If you like your wine you’re pretty well served in Japan. Obviously you must avoid pub wines, which come in the flavours “red” or “white”, both chilled to beyond taste, which considering their pedigree is probably a blessing in disguise. But there are plenty of shops that sell a large variety of wines, both imported and local, with Yamanashi prefecture being the most famous for Japanese wines (grape, not rice). And as it’s not so important in Japan you can easily get away with knowing bugger all about wines without people turning their nose up to you. If, like me, you just like to drown in sorrow, your average sub-grand yen imports from the local supermarket will serve you well. Kampai!


  1. I'm going to sound like a wine snob, but...

    Beaujolais Nouveau is like cake batter, in that it can be fun to taste, but I prefer actual cake.

    The fanfare for it was something unexpected, as while it goes fairly unspoken here in America, there was HALF A WALL dedicated to the stuff at my local wine shop in Japan. I could hardly believe it. It was like they were marketing it as this great wine, instead of a rushed first-wine-out-the-door-after-harvest.

    Alright, [/snob]