Georges Duboeuf – the man long since known for popularizing Beaujolais Nouveau was also instrumental in bringing the region’s most complex red wines to market; first in France, then throughout Europe, and later to the rest of the world. Georges was born in the late 1930’s in a small town of the Mâconnais region, well known for Chardonnay. By the end of the 1940’s Georges decided to start selling his family’s wines beyond the borders of the Mâconnais.
He would ride his bicycle, laden with wines from Pouilly-Fuissé and Mâcon, from Beaujolais to Lyon – the largest city in the region and one of the gastronomy capitals of France. Georges developed a number of loyal customers among young chefs in the burgeoning restaurant community, making his food-friendly wines a natural fit. World-renowned chef and co-creator of Nouvelle Cuisine, Paul Bocuse, encouraged Georges to find red wines from Beaujolais that were worthy to serve alongside his unique whites.
Beaujolais Crus – 10 sub-regions of Beaujolais designated by the French government, divided according to their terroirs.
Georges approached winemakers in the Beaujolais Crus he had developed relationships with and expounded on his search for exceptional red wines. His first partner on board was Jean Ernest Descombes, one of the best-known growers and winemakers in Cru Morgon. On nothing more than a handshake, they sealed a deal for Georges Duboeuf to represent Descombes wines.
In addition to Morgon, Duboeuf appointed partnerships with the Ten Crus are Fleurie, Saint Amour, Juliénas, Moulin-Á-Vent, Chiroubles, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas and Regnie. In each Cru, Georges found Gamay on the vines or in the bottle that met his high standards. Like Descombes, there are Domaines and Chateaux that have been represented by the Duboeufs since inception.
Domaine des Rosiers, from Cru Moulin-A-Vent, has been owned by the Chavette family for decades. The wine is a textbook example of Gamay from their hillside vineyards – dark garnet color, with aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, plum and faded roses.
From nearby Fleurie, the wines of Domaine des Quatre Vents and Clos des Quatre Vents are planted on hillsides, in the Cru’s distinctive pink granite soil. These wines impart a much different flavor profile than the Gamay grown in neighboring Crus.
Saint Amour is the northernmost Cru, and the smallest, bordering the Mâconnais. Considering its proximity to Burgundy, the wines from Saint Amour resemble their cousins to the North, with the potential for them to retain their fruit-filled aromas and heady taste for a number of years. Chateau de Saint Amour has been part of Duboeuf’s portfolio for many years and is a great example of the Cru’s finest wines.
The only Chateau that is owned by the Duboeufs is Chateau des Capitans, encircled by nearly 30 acres of vines in the heart of Cru Juliénas. The remarkable old vines, many over 50 years old, form a single estate vineyard with a unique terroir. The Gamay grapes grown there benefit from optimal soil and microclimate conditions, making wines that meet the Duboeufs standards.
By the late 1950’s, Georges had a thriving business and became a well-known wine personality. He converted an old Renault truck into a portable bottling line and a modern filtration system in a trailer behind. Georges offered it to any grower who sought the opportunity to have their wines bottled on-site and immediately brought to market. He often said that bottling wine was as difficult as making it.
Georges became France’s first custom bottler with the most efficient equipment available. He was exacting in his requirements that the wines represented remain true to each one’s terroir. The group was unified by renderings of each Domaine or Chateau on their labels in the same sketch style.
In 1964, to answer the needs of growing a business Georges started Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. The umbrella company housed the Domaine and Chateaux wines along with Beaujolais Nouveau and “Flower Label” wines. The “Flower Label” collection is made at the Duboeuf winery, in a hamlet of Romaneche-Thorins situated between Fleurie and the Saone River, and still feature labels drawn by Georges himself. It is here that Georges’ artistic side and business life were reconciled. Georges and his wife moved to Beaujolais soon after they were married and raised their son and daughter. The company’s offices and a state-of-the-art winery are on the grounds, near their Chateau.
The Chateau is also is the site of Le Hameau Duboeuf, among the most elegant theme parks in Europe. It is spacious and serene, with a child-size train ferrying people around the grounds, from a botanical garden to a miniature golf course. The history of wine is told in a beautifully-appointed museum with two ancient wine presses, both of which date back to the 15th Century. The museum also houses antique wine machinery and an amazing collection of wine and spirit themed poster art. Following a tour of the museum, enjoy an immersive experience about the life of vineyard owners in the early 20th Century, where guests feel like they’re flying as they follow two cartoon bees buzzing around Beaujolais.
Harvest is an especially hectic time in Beaujolais as it is high season for Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wine of the harvest. Georges was a tireless ambassador for Nouveau, bringing the story of the wine’s evolution from the vineyards of Beaujolais to the world. He would say that Nouveau, “is very easy to drink but difficult to make.” The precise timing involved leaves no margin for error. The wine is expected to be on retailer’s shelves the morning of the third Thursday in November, a week prior to Thanksgiving. Known fondly as Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the seasonal release is unveiled around the world – often at celebratory, French-themed parties and dinners.
Georges passed away in early 2020 at the age of 86. He has left Les Vins Georges Duboeuf in the capable hands of his son Franck and grandson Aurelian. Like his father, Franck is in close contact with the wine producers he represents around the world. Many are childhood friends who have taken over their families’ vineyards and wineries. Aurelian works on the technical side, learning the production process from the vines to finished wines. According to Franck, what they have learned from Georges is “work hard, pay attention to details, never stop learning and stay true to your vision.” These words of wisdom will serve them well as they lead Les Vins Georges Duboeuf in the 21st Century.