Early this year, the wine world learned of the death of Georges Dubouef, at the age of 86. While his may not be a household name, his wine legacy will live on.
Georges Dubouef was born on April 14th, 1933, in Creches-sur-Saone, which is in the Burgundy region of France, in the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. He was raised on a farm that had a few acres of Chardonnay planted, and from a young age, he was involved in working in the vineyard and helping to make wine. His father passed away while Georges was young, and his uncle and older brother took over the family business. Starting at 18, he would deliver his family’s wine, via bicycle, to local restaurants and shops.
Georges was commissioned to make a red wine for a customer. This task lead him to form a syndicate of 45 wine growers called the Ecrin Mâconnais-Beaujolais. The organization would go on to dissolve due to internal bickering. In 1964, Duboeuf went on to became a négociant (wine merchant who assembles produce from small growers and winemakers and sells it under his own label), as he founded Les Vin Georges Duboeuf.
Les Vin Georges Duboeuf grew, and now produces more than 2.5 million cases of wine annually including Beaujolais Nouveau. Georges is considered to have been single-handedly responsible for the rise of this style of wine. For Beaujolais Nouveau wine, the Gamay grapes are harvested, and fermentation is performed by carbonic maceration, yielding a fresh and fruity wine. In carbonic maceration, the grapes are put into the tank without yeast and the oxygen is replaced by carbon dioxide. The grapes go through an intra-cellular fermentation within the skins and a few percent alcohol is achieved. The grapes are lightly crushed, and regular fermentation completes the process. Beaujolais Nouveau is made and bottled and released on the third Thursday of November each year.
The reason for the release of Beaujolais Nouveau soon after making and bottling was and is twofold: The early sale meant that winemakers were making and selling wine quickly, which brought capital into the winery while all the other wines were being made, possibly barreled, and aged. The other reason for releasing the wine early was to allow all the local wine growers to celebrate the end of harvest. This celebration has expanded beyond the vineyards in the region. In 1951, the French government declared an official Beaujolais Nouveau Day, and now, more than 60 million bottles are consumed worldwide on the day of its release.
Georges Duboeuf became the public face for this style of wine. He hobnobbed with celebrities, hired race car drivers to deliver the wine on the day of its release to Paris, and so much more. He is considered the "le roi du Beaujolais or pape due Beaujolais" (the king or pope of Beaujolais). In 1993, Georges opened the doors to Le Hameau Duboeuf, which is a museum dedicated to over 2,000 years of winemaking history. Winemaking continues with his descendants at the helm, and Georges’s legacy lives on.