ON the third Thursday of every November, avid wine fans pop the cork to celebrate the beginning of the annual festival Beaujolais Day, but the backdrop to this image isn’t the mediterranean seas of the French Riviera nor the snow-dusted Pyrenees, but rather the welsh waters of Mumbles and cobbles of Wind St that are playing host to wine connoisseurs.
Contrary to Swansea veterans’ belief, Beaujolais wine was birthed in the French Region of Beaujolais. The city of Paris, then, initiated the festival ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’ as a race for wine distributors to get their first bottles of Beaujolais shipped to markets around the globe. Under French Law, the wine is not to be released until the third Thursday of November at 12:01. Beaujolais Day is an annual tradition for countries around the remotest parts of the world from the US, Japan, Germany and evidently, SA1.
Businesses such as La Parilla, Morgans Hotel, No Sign Wine Bar, and La Braseria have become synonymous with the occasion, offering three-course lunches, live music and alcohol by the acre. But why has the city of Swansea become the UK’s crème de la crème of Beaujolais Day festivities?
No Sign Wine Bar’s, Becky Oliver, states that the bar has a long standing connection with Beaujolais Day that dates back twenty years and could be the seed that started it all.
“The previous owners of No Sign Wine Bar, the Munday family participated in the French race. They travelled over to France to collect the wine and brought it back with them to Swansea,” says Becky.
“It was this bar that started it all and along with La Braseria, we have been celebrating Beaujolais Day for the past 20 years. I remember it was chaos 20 years ago and each year it is getting bigger and more popular. We take bookings in the summer and always sell out well in advance. Our capacity is 950 people and from 5 o’clock people are queuing around the street trying to get in and have a drink.”
Surprisingly or not, Becky expresses that the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is far from the main attraction of the day. “I don’t order that many cases of the Beaujolais wine. Far more people drink other wines and spirits and this year I think it’s all about gin. I think people just come for a good time and to let off some steam.”
Maria Doyle is one of these said customers who has become a veteran for Swansea’s Beaujolais Day.
“I have been to every Beaujolais Day for around 10 years and now it’s kind of a tradition for me and my circle of friends. We don’t even discuss if we are going anymore it’s just a certainty.”
“I think it’s the atmosphere that makes it so nice; all the bars are packed, there’s music and everyone gets very dressed up. I don’t drink the Beaujolais wine, it’s more about good food and the lively environment for me,” says Maria.
Additionally, it seems that Swansea is making a name for itself with more and more people from around the country venturing down to commemorate the special day.
“We’ve met people from Cardiff, North Wales and England who have travelled to Swansea to join in. I suppose people have had friends say how good of a day it is and then word has got around,” Maria adds.
The day, however, is not only for people who want to drink but also for businesses around Swansea. The social event is an opportunity for businesses to network and create invaluable contacts. In the past, Morgan’s Hotel celebrated Beaujolais Day with more of a corporate networking event. This year, however, will see the return of the Morgan’s Marquee situated just outside the hotel and playing host to an array of clientele.
Each year, Swansea’s Beaujolais Day is a force to be reckoned with and is pioneering a revival wave for the vintage festival. It seems that the beauty of Beaujolais Day may lie in its old-fashioned and quirky origin and simply for the fact that it is unique to Swansea.
For Swansea, it seems that Beaujolais Day has become an annual tradition that is now ingrained in the culture. Despite its French-graped roots, the day has become something that is quintessentially, recognised as part of the city’s identity.