As a French guy, the yearly celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau is the kind of tradition that can go a lot of different ways. The quality of the wine is hit or miss, and the atmosphere can be very volatile, as with any kind of celebration around alcohol tends to be. So, I was really curious to see which way the Beaujolais Nouveau event organized by the Alliance Française would go. I’ll spoil it for you now : it got everything right!
I arrive at the CQ Hotel on Cuba at 6pm, and I’m immediately overwhelmed by the frenchness. The Alliance Française really went all out on the tricolor flag decorations, and the blue-white-red motif seems to be everywhere I lay my eyes. But the most interesting red is of course the wine’s. I get my first glass and taste it cautiously… What a delightful surprise! It’s in no way the worst Beaujolais I ever tasted, and is indeed quite pleasant. Very light, fruity, fresh : you can’t ask more from Beaujolais Nouveau! Easy to drink, it’s almost actual grape juice. And it goes perfectly with the little platters of cheese and “charcuterie” going around.
People are starting to fill the space : the event is a success, with all 150 tickets sold in a few days. A mix of French expats and kiwi francophiles mingle in a pleasant way. And then, it’s time for the speeches. First comes the President of the Alliance Française, a bubbly lady evidently enthused by the success of the event. Then the French ambassador in New Zealand makes a dignified appearance, followed by the French Secretary of State for Veterans. All very short and heartfelt, but only in French! Hopefully, not too many in the public were distraught.
But now I have to admit something : wine, cheese and good company is perfectly fine. But this event also holds a ridiculously attractive raffle, with a plethora of delightful prizes, including a retro-styled Peugeot scooter. The gambler (and motorist) in me could not resist. Drawing the 50+ prizes took more than an hour, and was an absolute blast. Definitely the high point of the evening. And I’m not saying this just because I won a magnificent Tefal frying pan.
All in all, this must be one of the best Beaujolais Nouveau celebration I ever attended. And it wasn’t even in France!
– Mathieu Anderson is a fresh transplant from Paris, France. He is still reeling from the shock of how awesome everything in Wellington is, and doing his best to never recover.
Alliance Française Wellington works to promote French Culture, in the wide sense of Francophony. With a library, classes and ever changing line up of cultural events find them online here.
Photo Credit: Alliance Française Wellington