Saturday November 24 2012

Wine festival highlights French custom

A butler at the festival.

A butler at the festival. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Chiristine W. Wanjiru

The French Ambassador to Uganda Aline Kuster Menager in her speech made a light-hearted jibe at the guests gathered around the Kabira pool last Friday at the Beaujolais Noveu wine festival 2012: “I can tell from the looks of most people’s eyes that there won’t be much left at the end of the night” she said. But the joke turned out true as by as early as eleven the waiters had the task of collecting empty bottles of the fresh tasting French wine from the tables the merry revellers.

You could think it was ‘Christmas come early’ for the invited guests seeing as it is getting to that time of the year when every company and embassy worth its salt throws a party. But this was more than another wine drink up held by the embassy. True there was a lot of drinking, but it was all more in observing a French tradition that has spread throughout the world. Sharing the first wine from the first harvest of the year in the Beaujolais region.

The culture
“It started decades ago to celebrate the grape crop of the year which is around September. The wine made from this crop is ready around November and it is tradition for French people anywhere they are in the world to invite their friends and share this new wine,” says the ambassador. Though it an informal event it was forbidden to hold the Beaujolais Noveau before mid-November.

This year Beaujolais Noveau was observed on November 14 the world over, but was celebrated a day later in Kampala due to the dates coinciding with the Belgian national holiday. “We wanted our Belgian friends in Kampala to attend so we moved it to November 15,” explain Menager.

Friday’s was the third time the annual event is observed in Uganda.
There is a cultural aspect where the French and Ugandans though as different as night and day bear some similarities. “Like Uganda, France for several centuries has had a very strong rural culture, and even if many live in the cities, it is a tradition to celebrate the crop of the land like it was the norm in traditional African society,” the ambassador said.