The first batch of Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived in Japan -- and distributors are saying that connoisseurs are in for a good year.
Not only has the weather in France been ideal for cultivating the grapes, resulting in the best crop for half a century, but thanks to the unabated strength of the yen, consumers here will be able to purchase a bottle for about 20 percent less than it cost 12 months ago.
The bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau began arriving at airports across Japan on Tuesday and are due to go on sale on November 19, according to Suntory Holdings Ltd., one of the main importers.
The imports are all Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais, with the five varieties including Rose Nouveau, Macon Villages and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Selection Plus.
In total, around 4.8 million 750-millilitre bottles of the wine are expected to be imported -- some 124,000 cases -- down an estimated 30 percent from last year's figures. The decline is blamed on the global economic crisis, which has hit sales of luxury products hard, despite the overwhelming strength of the yen against other currencies.
Each bottle will sell for around Y2,500(€18.72), a sizeable reduction on last year's retail price thanks to the yen and lower air transportation costs.
Plans are already well under way for the traditional Beaujolais parties on the day that the bottles go on sale.
"I have already ordered eight bottles for a small party that we will be having at the school on that evening," said Eric Fior, owner of the Eric Gaigogakuin language school in Yokohama.
"As well as teaching Japanese people the French language, we try to introduce as many parts of French culture as possible and food and drink are an important part of that," he added.
"In previous years, these Beaujolais parties have been very popular with the students as they are good opportunities for people to mix in a French atmosphere, and I hope we will have another memorable evening this year," he added.