As close as you can get to white wine …

“This isn’t just chips and dips,” announces Stephanie Smith of local PR firm The Brite Agency.

She’s talking about the highly social, heavily hors d’oeuvres-ed and ostentatiously French-themed Nouveau Night, a popular local event that attracts light drinkers in droves.

“Since Asheville is known as the Paris of the South, we go all out for this French fete,” promises Event Chair Amy Parker in a recent press release.

However, Asheville — unlike Paris — tends more toward casual attire than cocktail gowns, which might explain event organizers claiming that the 10th Annual Nouveau Night is “completely unpretentious.”

Of course, that begs the question, if you can’t be hoity-toity when it comes to French wine and ritzy food, when can you?

Nouveau Night, for the unindoctrinated, is the worldwide celebration of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau wines. The “nouveau” part — this is for those who skipped French I — means “new,” referring to a special group of light, dry, fruity red wines meant to be consumed young instead of aging in a dusty cellar. Grown in the Beaujolais region of Southeastern France — between Lyons and Basse-Bourgogne — Beaujolais Nouveau traditionally was hauled into village cafes and bistros to be quaffed in mass quantities.

After all, unlike the other Beaujolais wines, the nouveau varieties are in their prime at one month of fermentation. In fact, Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t meant to be sniffed, swirled and swished — there just isn’t time for all that.

Online forum intowine.com proposes that the young wine’s popularity is due to its utter drinkability: ” … Especially in the U.S. where consumption of red wine is less than 30% … Beaujolais Nouveau is as about as close to white wine as a red wine can get.”

The site goes on to explain that the rushed fermentation process omits bitter tannins. “This, coupled with the fact that it tastes best when chilled, makes for a festive wine to be gulped rather than sipped, enjoyed in high spirits rather than critiqued. As a side note, it makes a great transitional wine for anyone wanting to move from white to red wines.” Right, no affectation here.

During the 1930s, the French government caught wind of the free-flowing vino and cracked down on sales. Those restrictions were revoked following WWII, and by that time what had once been a quaint rural tradition had catapulted to major festival status.

Restricted sales were traded for an official release date. First designated November 15, the date was changed to the third Thursday of the month, closer to the weekend — a development understandably embraced by all those suffering post-Nouveau Night retributions.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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