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Posted at 4:16 PM ET, 11/17/2008

Bring on the Beaujolais Nouveau

By Julia Beizer

Beaujolais Nouveau is one of my favorite marketing gimmicks. Because French law prohibits the young, light-bodied wine from being sold before the third Thursday in November, restaurants around the world make a big deal of staying open late on Wednesday night so they can pop the first cork at the stroke of midnight. It's a lot of fuss over a traditional peasant wine that oenophiles generally ignore because, more often than not, it falls into the category of "drinkable" rather than "good." (Actually, last year's crop was pretty decent -- read Wine Spectator's take on the 2007 vintage.)

To put it kindly, the wine's not really the attraction -- it's all about the parties that go along with it.

Wednesday Night | Thursday and Friday | Restaurant Deals

Wednesday Night Events

Bistrot du Coin
Bistrot du Coin's annual party is the biggest and busiest in the city, which you can attribute to the fact that they give the wine away. After the usual dinner service finishes, waiters move tables and chairs out of the way, turning dining room into a dance floor. This year's DJ is JR St-Rose (listen), who spins hip-hop and electro across France and has released several mix CDs. He'll be joined by vocalist Keith Thompson, saxophonist Fred Karato and percussionist Mika, who will jam along to the records. Oh, right. Back to the wine: The first bottle is opened at midnight, and after that, it's all you can drink. No wonder women wind up dancing on the bar and there's a line out the door. To speed admission, be in line before 11 p.m. Once the restaurant hits capacity, it's one-in, one-out. As always, there's no cover.

Les Halles
[NOTE: This event has been canceled due to unforseen circumstances.]

A Breathless Beaujolais at 1905
Scenester Web site Brightest Young Things is sponsoring this promising new event, which features food and drink specials, including an Absinthe cocktail. A DJ will spin French hits from Serge Gainsbourg through Daft Punk and beyond from 9 p.m. until last call. Beaujolais Nouveau is free after the midnight countdown. There's a $10 cover, and RSVPs are recommended: e-mail TUESDAY UPDATE: All advance tickets are gone. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door, so show up on the early side.

If You Can't Stay Out Late
Okay, we realize that some people have to work in the morning and can't be downing wine after midnight. If that's the case, check out these other events.

Third Thursday
Thursday, 8 p.m.- 2 a.m. at Napoleon
Local DJ Chris Burns spins house and disco in the oh-so-chic Metropolitain lounge on Napoleon's lower level. Beaujolais Nouveau wine is free until it runs out, so arrive on the early side.

Beaujolais Not-so-Nouveau Festival Happy Hour
Thursday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel
The French Wine Society is the sponsor of this event, so you know it's got a good pedigree. It's also not cheap. Hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine are included in the $19 cover charge ($17 for members). After that, you'll pay a few bucks for each additional sample of Beaujolais Nouveau. High rollers can pony up $59 for the VIP tasting, which includes wines from 12 different crus, or areas, paired with appetizers. Tickets are available from the French Wine Society site.

Alliance Francaise Wine and Cheese Party
Friday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Alliance Francaise
The French cultural center's annual soiree features live accordion music and wine and cheese samples. If you're itching to practice your French, this is the party to hit, as many of the attendees are Francophones or studying in the Alliance's language classes. Admission is $35 ($25 for members).

Soiree Beaujo Chic
Friday, 6-10 p.m. at Midtown Lounge
Brought to you by DJ Hervé Racaud, who throws the international Planete Chic events at lounges like Current and Tabaq, this after-work happy hour includes drink specials (including Beaujolais Nouveau) until 8 p.m. and house and electro music by French DJ JR St-Rose, who's also spinning at Bistrot du Coin's Wednesday night party. There's no cover to check out the new Midtown Lounge, but be aware that dress is "business casual."

French-American Chamber of Commerce Beaujolais Nouveau Celebration
Friday, 6-9 p.m. at the Washington Club
Every year, this is the fanciest Beaujolais Nouveau party around -- almost too good for the wine. The event includes dishes prepared chefs from some of D.C.'s best-known restaurants, including David Deshaies of Michel Richard Citronelle, Simon Ndjiki of Bistrot Lepic and Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila! Live music and a silent auction are also on the agenda. Tickets cost $80, and business attire is required. Make reservations on the Chamber of Commerce Web site.

It's not all wine and games -- you can get food to go with your Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais Nouveau Evening
Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m. at Cafe du Parc
A special seasonal menu -- including house-cured charcuterie, plates of cheese or seafood, and a savory Alsatian tart piled with bacon, onions and cheese -- is designed to pair with the Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau. (Prices weren't available when we published.)

Beginning Thursday, Bastille and Mon Ami Gabi are also offering special menus that pair with the wine.

-- Fritz

By Julia Beizer  | November 17, 2008; 4:16 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Restaurants  
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Next: Au Revoir, Les Halles

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I just called Les Halles and the staff who answered says they are not closed and that they are still having a Beaujolais Nouveau
event on Thursday.

Posted by: maryr1 | November 17, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

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