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Posted at 3:24 PM ET, 11/ 8/2007

Want Some Free French Wine?

By Fritz Hahn

It's November, so it's time for the annual uncorking of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a young French red wine. Because it only matures for a few weeks before being bottled and consumed, it's traditionally been a wine for farmers and rural workers, who drank it at harvest festivals.

By French law, it cannot be sold until the third Thursday of November, and clever marketing has now turned Beaujolais Nouveau into a worldwide event, with wine shipped around the globe and opened as soon as possible.

Here's the thing: It's usually not very good wine. But who would let that stand in the way of a good party?

In Washington, Bistrot du Coin and Les Halles have made an annual tradition of staying open until midnight so that customers can claim to be among the first to have tried it. Even better, they usually just open kegs and bottles and let customers drink as much as they want, while tables are cleared for dancing and DJs spin party music.

The Bistrot generally offers two or three different varieties, and the young, party-hungry crowd usually turns the place into a bilingual madhouse. The only problem is getting in. Tables are reserved weeks in advance, and would-be revelers form long lines outside, trying to get in to dance and drink. Those without reservations are usually let in once diners start trickling out, which is sometime after 11. Expect a "one-in, one-out" policy, though, so you might want to arrive on the early side.

Les Halles generally draws a slightly older crowd and is less packed (and crazy) than Bistrot du Coin. Still, it's a fun night, with free tripe (mmm... intestines) to accompany your free wines. The party begins at 9, and no reservations are required.

If you don't mind waiting a day to try Beaujolais Nouveau -- and if you have to work on Thursday, you won't -- then there are two other parties worth noting.

The annual party at the French Embassy's La Maison Francaise, hosted by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, draws a dressier crowd, but it's not a stuffy affair. There are seven different Beaujolais Nouveau wines to sample: Domaine Manoir de Carra, Domaine Descroix, Domaine Anne-Marie de Perret, George Duboeuf Nouveau, Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard Aine, and Mommessin. To complement the wines, seven local chefs, including Peter Smith of PS7's and Frank Claros of Extra Virgin, have created special dishes, and there's the usual selection of cheeses, pate, pastries and chocolate. A limited number of tickets are $69 from the Chamber of Commerce's Web site.

Finally, the Alliance Francaise cultural institute is waiting until the weekend for its annual wine-and-cheese bash, which features classic Edith Piaf songs performed by Simone Marchand and the DJ stylings of DJ Stylus (our own Rhome Anderson), who'll be mixing up hip-hop, funk, Afrobeat and Latin tunes. Tickets are $33 for the public, or less for members and students in language classes. See the Alliance Francaise Web site to purchase tickets or for more information.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | November 8, 2007; 3:24 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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"Still, it's a fun night, with free tripe (mmm... intestines) to accompany your free wines."

Tripe isn't intestine, it's stomach lining. Not that much more delicious sounding, I know.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

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