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How Quebec brought in big bucks through 'the beaujolais bandwagon'

The Quebec government's move to import the popular French wine called beaujolais nouveau helped generate revenue and please its people.

Province's liquor stores sold 12,000 cases of the imported French wine in one day in 1981

12,000 cases of beaujolais

40 years ago
1:43
Imported beaujolais nouveau was highly popular with Quebec wine drinkers in 1981. 1:43

It seemed like 12,000 cases of beaujolais nouveau wasn't enough.

Because Quebec's provincially owned liquor stores sold out of their stock in just one day back in 1981.

The wine had been imported from France and was priced at $7 a bottle, on average — or just under $20 in today's dollars.

Maurice Chenier, the publisher of a wine magazine, had helped select the wine in question.

"It's a very, very young wine, very light and nothing robust about it. It's a very simple wine," he told The National, when describing its profile.

Not to be taken 'seriously'...

Wine expert Maurice Chenier is seen examining a beaujolais nouveau that had been imported to Quebec from France in 1981. (The National/CBC Archives)

Yet Chenier personally preferred Canadian-made beaujolais.

And he believed the French one Quebec consumers were snapping up shouldn't be taken "too seriously," as reporter Don Macpherson put it.

The wine was made and sold just weeks after the grapes were picked.

Yet, as Macpherson pointed out, there was a lot for the Quebec government to like about it.

...though it made serious profits

Quebec consumers were eager to buy bottles of beaujolais nouveau, which went on sale and sold out in one day in 1981. (The National/CBC Archives)

The beaujolais sales had totalled more than $1 million that day, "half of which is clear profit," said Macpherson.

"So far, Quebec is the only province that has gone to such lengths to import and promote beaujolais nouveau," he added.

"But once the other provinces realize the revenues to be raised in such a relatively painless way, the rest of the country may climb aboard the beaujolais bandwagon."

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