New Beaujolais Festival

When is Beaujolais Nouveau Day?

Beaujolais Nouveau 2020

Every year wine-lovers around the world wait patiently for November. This is the month when they can celebrate the release of that world-famous wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01am on the third Thursday of every November. And (in normal circumstances) there are parties all over France, and in other countries, celebrating it’s release with fireworks, dancing and music.

It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!

The Beaujolais vineyards cover an area of approximately 22,500 hectares and 12 different quality wine-producing areas, or ‘appellations’. So not surprisingly, there will be a lot of celebrating going on. There are around 120 Beaujolais Nouveau related festivals held in the Beaujolais region every year. 

The most famous of these is Les Sarmentelles, held in the town of Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Starting on the eve of Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the five-day festival includes wine tasting (obviously), live music and dancing. During the afternoon on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, there are wines and local foods to sample. There is also a tasting competition featuring all twelve ‘appellations’ of Beaujolais. The prize for the winner is his or her weight in Beaujolais-Villages wine. Later on in the evening, a torch lit parade honours the farmers that made the wine. Then at midnight fireworks mark the official release of the new Beaujolais wine, and the revellers drink until dawn. It’s guaranteed to be a festive atmosphere!

The race is on

In November 1951, the ‘Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais’ (UIVB) formally set the release date. Marketing of the wine capitalised on it’s fast distribution. So the race was on to see who could get the first bottles to Paris. In the 1960s, English clubs rewarded the drivers who returned the quickest and with the most wine. And so it continued. There was more and more media coverage, until by the 1970s it became a national event. Legend has it that some of the transport used to carry the wine included an elephant, a hot-air balloon and Concorde.

vineyard beaujolais nouveau
Image credit – Henri Guerin on Unsplash

Because of all the marketing attention it became necessary to review the shipping date. Eventually, in 1985, the date was changed to the third Thursday in November to take advantage of marketing it the following weekend. Nowadays, the wine is sent to retailers a few days ahead of the release date, with strict instructions not to sell it until 12.01am on the third Thursday.


Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine, made from the Gamay grape and bottled 6–8 weeks after harvest. The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins. However, unlike other wines it is not one that improves with age, so it is best for immediate drinking. Serve it slightly chilled at around 13 °C (55 °F).

Charentais specialties

We might not have Beaujolais on our Bel-Air Gites doorstep, but we do have an equally wonderful variety of wines and spirits, and delicious local dishes. Food-wise there are so many fantastic Charentais specialities you will be spoilt for choice. Take your pick from oysters, éclade (smoked mussels with pine needles), chaudrée (fish soup), or galette charentaise. Washed down with Cognac or the local Pineau des Charentes.

What are you waiting for? Book your next family holiday with Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime. Make wonderful memories and lots of new friends in 2021.

Book Now for Summer 2021

Do chocolate and BBQ go together?

toasting marshmallows on bbq
Toasting marshmallows on the BBQ before dipping in warm chocolate sauce

That’s a tough one. Summer, chocolate and BBQ? – It’s a Yes from Bel-Air Gites!

Even when it’s as hot as it is today, we can still make a little time for a piece of good quality chocolate. But we are not just talking about chocolate bars. They’re good. But when the coals on the BBQ have fizzled out, sometimes you just need a little something sweet to finish off. Nothing beats a perfect serving of ice cream – three scoops, one each of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. So it’s a Yes from Bel-Air Gites. Chocolate and BBQ do make a good pairing.

Sunny morning

I don’t know whether I dreamt it, but this morning, as soon as I woke up my first thought was ‘barbecue’. It’s another gloriously sunny Charente-Maritime morning, so the evening will be wonderfully warm too. So, when the weather is this good, why spend it indoors? A quick mental list to self for today’s barbecue menu and I’m off to prepare the marinade.

But part-way though chopping courgettes for the veggie skewers, I stopped in my tracks. What can we have for dessert? I could just picture their faces in my head..

Veg kebabs AND fruit kebabs?

I was going to have to be a little more ‘inventive’. But what did we have in stock, so that I didn’t have to go shopping?

Still a few strawberries in the garden so that was a good start, and we still had a deliciously juicy charentais melon in the fridge too.

They would go perfectly well together, cut into equal sized pieces and mixed in a bowl. But deep down there was a craving. I needed ‘something’ to bring them together. Both of these fruits are delicious as a refreshing, chilled starter, steeped in a little local Pineau des Charentes. But I’m after dessert ideas. I didn’t want to skewer the fruit, so decided a warm sauce would do the trick.

Berry sauce recipe

250 g frozen raspberries, crushed, and mixed with a little sugar to taste. Warm through later on the BBQ embers. Perfect – almost. Something warm is especially splendid poured over something very, very cold. Like ‘chocolate-ice-cream’ cold.

Et viola! Barbecue menu sorted for this evening, and it’s not even midday. So chocolate and BBQ does go together.

Search results

Apart from making a chocolate sauce for dipping, I wanted to find a few other recipes. Typed ‘chocolate and BBQ’ into my search field and came back with the following results. Try it, and see what you find.

  1. Chocolate BBQ Kit from Choc On Choc. Devilishly simple
  2. Chocolate and Marshmallows Banana Boats. Bananas are great done on the BBQ wrapped in foil
  3. Texas Chocolate and Barbecue restaurant – not actually cooked together, but chilli and chocolate go well together so why not as a steak sauce?
  4. Chocolate baked bananas
  5. BBQ chocolate dip – simply done and great for dipping fruit or marshmallows
  6. Chocolate chilli barbecue sauce – it has to be done!

And those were the top ones. I’m sure with a bit more digging we could find something a bit more exciting. But today, we will be very happy with our mixed fruit, warm berry sauce and chocolate ice cream. How about you? What would be your chocolate and BBQ dream dish?

Book Bel-Air Gites for 2021

If you want to have your own daily barbecues dilemmas, then you need to book your next family summer holiday at Bel-Air Gites. Child-friendly, family holiday accommodation in the sunny Charente-Maritime. Our gites are booking up fast. So don’t delay – book today!

Can you keep a Charente secret?

Image credit : P&C Authentic Pineau and Cognac

The Charente is famous for its food, vineyards and Cognac, but not everybody knows about Pineau des Charentes. It’s our little secret. And one of France’s best kept secrets, that shares much of its history with Cognac.

If you ask for Pineau des Charentes anywhere outside of France you might get a few blank looks. After being named an ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée‘ wine in 1945 it began to be more widely exported around the world. Surprisingly though, it has not hit the top of the luxury brand market in the same way as it’s closest relative, Cognac.

Maybe it’s more of an acquired taste, but it’s a drink that shares it’s history with Cognac, right here in the Charente-Maritime. And we are going to share our little secret with you.

Pleasant Surprise

Legend has it that in the 16th century a Saintonge winemaker mistakenly poured some grape juice into a cask containing eau-de-vie. It lay forgotten in his cellar for many years. When the cask was eventually opened he had a very pleasant surprise. The ‘mistelle’, or ‘grape must’, had matured into a delicious amber liquid, that had a warm, sweet flavour and a wonderful aroma.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Pineau des Charentes was created.

The ‘terroir’ in this area is perfect for wine, cognac and pineau. There is one particularly famous region, very close to Bel-Air Gites, named ‘Petite Champagne d’Archiac’. Here, the limestone and chalky soil conditions are similar to that of Grande Champagne.

The vineyard benefits from a temperate oceanic climate, characterised by mild temperatures and sunshine, particularly favourable to the excellent ripening of the grapes.

P&C Authentic Pineau and Cognac is an upcoming, local brand run by childhood friends, who all have a strong, true family and friendship connection with Cognac and Pineau. In collaboration with the company EARL Lembert, based in Archiac, they produce one of the best pineau we have ever tasted. It is a wonderful aperitif, and extremely good served chilled, with cold meats, fish and seafood. But because of its sweetness, it is equally delicious with fruit or a rich chocolatey dessert. That’s our favourite!

Family Tradition

The pineau and cognac process and knowledge has been passed down through three generations of the Lembert family. Everything relating to the production is done on site. From planting and harvesting, through to ageing and bottling. They love to share their stories and history and happily arrange tastings and tours at their property in Archaic.

When you stay at Bel-Air Gites we definitely recommend that you buy a bottle or two to try with your BBQ or dining al fresco, on your own private patio. Or take some home as gifts for your family and friends. They will send you back to Bel-Air Gites for more.

Better still bring them with you so that they can learn more about our little secret. Not just the secret about our wonderful Pineau des Charentes, but the fact that we are located in such an incredibly diverse region. There is something here for everyone to help make unforgettable family memories.

Book for 2021

We are now taking bookings for 2021. Get in touch so that you don’t miss out, and start counting down the days until you are at Bel-Air Gites.

Child-friendly gites, and fantastic family holidays in the sunny Charente-Maritime.

cormac-in pool
Flipping happy!

Images published with the kind permission of P&C Authentic Pineau and Cognac


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