Fill your Airbus with Beaujolais

It tastes of raspberries, strawberries and even bananas (but mostly rotting fruit.) It gives you acid, upset stomach, diarrhoea and a very bad hangover. Every year, serious wine buffs rage against the stuff – it is not real wine – too popular too commercial, YET come Thursday, everyone in France will be uncorking a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau.

At home with family, at a workplace drink with colleagues or in a bistrot, café or restaurant with friends – the French will be downing this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. For many restaurants and cafés, the Beaujolais night is the biggest and best business of the year.

The Beaujolais region isn’t huge, yet every year the local winegrowers manage to produce nearly 35 million bottles of the Bojo Noovo – half of which are destined for Japan and China.

Of course with the success of the Beaujolais Nouveau, other wines are getting in on the act. Come Thursday, apart from the palettes of Beaujolais stacked sky high in the local supermarket, there will also be Côtes du Rhône Primeur and Gamay Primeur – both of which are worse than the Beaujolais – yet people buy them.

Ah, the « Nouveau » craze is big business. Every year we have new potatoes, but in recent years we’ve also been treated to « ognions nouveau » and the « carotte nouvelle ».

As the French get ready for some serious cirrhosis this coming Thursday, here are a few wine facts.

France is NOT the world’s biggest wine Producer; it comes a close second to Italy, producing sole 44 million hectolitres a year.  Just how much is a hectolitre? Well even after years of suffering primary school maths with my daughter and learning interminably long metric conversion tables, I still don’t know how much a hectolitre is.  Thank heavens for the Internet – bristling with sites put together by primary school teachers to help dumb parents with modern maths. A Hectolitre is 100 litres. A litre is roughly a couple of pints. In wine terms – a bottle is supposed to contain six « reasonable » glasses of wine. Wine is sold in 75cl (three quarter litre) bottles so a hectolitre is … well; I’ve managed to calculate that a hectolitre is about 133 bottles wine.

NOW, Italy produces 45 million hectolitres of wine a year, and a lot of French wine snobs will tell you that Italian wine is all quantity rather than quality (or are they just annoyed about coming second?).

There are 142,000 winegrowers and producers in France and the sector employs around 558,000 people (not all of them swirling wine round their mouths or sticking their noses into unfeasibly large wine glasses) the 558,000 jobs also includes all those people who go out in all weathers and harvest the grapes – and a great many of these grape pickers are now not the traditional beardy, espadrille-wearing gitane smoking student types, they are either eastern European or French seniors and retirees trying to make a few extra Euros to compensate their miserable pensions.

60% of the wine the French buy and consume is red. 23% is Rosé and 17% is white. In France we are supposed to drink on average 53 litres of wine per inhabitant per year, which works out a 1.3 glasses of wine per day. (Though the source of my wine facts doesn’t mention the size of the glass, I suppose we are talking of the measly, mean standard 12,5 cl glass) Note that in the UK pubs serve far more « reasonable » 17,5cl or even 25cl glasses.

What else to say about French wine? Well after the Airbus, the good old bottle of French Château Plonk is the country’s best export – France exports 7.6 billion Euros of the stuff every year. For the record, a brand new Airbus will cost around 149 million Euros. A bottle of decent wine down your local supermarket will cost 8 Euros and above. A bottle of average table wine will set you back around 4 Euros but for less than 2 Euros, you can get a litre of cheap and cheerful aircraft fuel that will get you just as sick as a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau retailing at around 6 Euros a bottle.

So, time for a maths problem.

An Airbus 380 can hold 320,000 litres of fuel. If a 75cl bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau costs 6 Euros; how much would it cost to fill the A380 with Beaujolais Nouveau?

Have a glass of wine while you work it out.