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BeaujolaisA much anticipated event will occur across the wine world at one minute past midnight Thursday.

From small villages in France’s Beaujolais region, millions of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau will begin their journey through the sleepy hillsides of France where the race for distribution commences.

The once-a-year event by French law occurs the third Thursday in November.

This race began as a local phenomenon in the cafes, bistros and bars of Beaujolais. Each fall when the harvest ended, winemakers made a wine that took just a few days to ferment and bottle, a wine much different from the long slumber of most wines.

It was obvious the locals enjoyed the quick release, and eventually Paris got a taste for the wonderful, unique style. What was only a local custom became a worldwide cult.

In the feverish race to the table, Beaujolais Nouveau has been transported by motorcycle, plane, truck, helicopter, private jets, runners, rickshaws and even elephants. An amazing feat if you consider as recently as late September it was only a cluster of grapes in a French vineyard. From field to table, Beaujolais Nouveau takes just weeks to produce and usually costs less than $15 a bottle.

Most are surprised to learn Beaujolais is a region, not a grape. The grape used for this fruity style of wine is the gamay grape. Its production is as unique as its traditions.

Carbonic maceration is used in the fermentation process. Instead of traditional winemaking that begins with crushing the grapes, this method layers the grapes in a sealed container and adds carbon dioxide.

Eventually the grapes are gently crushed under their own weight. The resulting wine is fresh, fruity and very low in tannin.

Be sure to enjoy your Beaujolais Nouveau soon after purchase, because it is a wine to be enjoyed now and not stored in a cellar.

Very few brands make it to Arkansas, but the dependable brand we can expect is the 2012 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, France (about $12 retail).