This past summer I was invited to France by Les Vins Georges Dubœuef (yeah, that Georges Dubœuf) to visit him in Beaujolais. Despite my many trips to France, I had only been to Beaujolais for a couple of days, but those were days that were, well, miserable.
This trip was pretty close to perfect, though, and it began in France’s third-largest city, Lyon.
After dinner and a brief stroll through the Lyon at night, I headed back to the hotel a bit worn out. We were heading down to Romanèche-Thorins, the longtime home of Georges Dubœuf and the location of Le Hameau Dubœuf (the Dubœuf Hamlet), which is described as an “oenoparc” replete with restaurant, wine museum, and gift shop.
The plan was to check out and leave the Lyon hotel at precisely 8:00 so that we would be on time for our 9:00 tasting at Le Hameau (for those that think that wine press trips are all about glamorous food paired with wonderful wines, well, they are, but the morning tastings can be a bit rough). Since I had been waking up before 5:00 since arriving in France, I felt no need to set an alarm.
Yeah, you know where this is going.
Generally speaking, my greatest day-to-day fear is that of being late. I think this stems from my days in high school when my parents would regularly show up anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours late, but I will have to check with my therapist on that.
Needless to say, perhaps, when I woke to discover it was 7:46, I was a bit panicked. Yikes. Shower, brush, dress, pack, in rapid succession. I waltzed out of my hotel room door by 7:58 and took the five flights down the stairs on a gallop to find… no one downstairs. I left my luggage in a rather prominent place in the lobby (where I figured people were most likely to trip over it and ran upstairs for a three-minute breakfast. When I came back down, the others were just coming out of the elevator.
I have one simple rule when on a press trip: never be late. And I wasn’t. So far.
We made it to the Hameau right on time, and I began my education on all things Georges Dubœuf.
While Georges Duboeuf is now almost synonymous with Beaujolais, his winegrowing family is actually from a bit further north, in the Mâconnais region of Burgundy, where his family has made Pouilly Fuissé (Chardonnay) in one of the four towns permitted to make the wine, Chantré, for centuries (yes, centuries–more than four, to be more precise). As such, Pouilly Fuissé was the first wine that Georges made and sold and it continues to be an important part of the Dubœuf portfolio.
After we parked at the Hameau and had a quick tour of the winemaking facility from Dubœuf’s head winemaker, Denis Lapalu. He alerted us to the fact that the flowering of the vines had just started that very morning, which he took as a sign that we were quite powerful and influential people.
The French sure do know how to charm….
After a tour of the facility and tasting a few wines from tank and from barrel, we headed across the street to Georges Dubœuf’s family home. Where Georges and his son Franck were waiting.
We started, as one would expect, with the Chardonnays from the Mâcon (although often in Burgundy, at least in the Côte d’Or to the north, one starts with the reds and finishes with the whites when tasting).
We would be tasting through the wines under the Georges Dubœuf label, which represents only about 10% of the total production under the Dubœuf “umbrella.”
2018 Georges Dubœuf Mâcon-Villages, France: Retail $18. 100% Chardonnay. According to M. Dubœuf, Mâcon-Villages is a spread out appellation with varying altitudes and soil types, so the role of the négociant (I will talk more about this in a future post) is to expertly blend the wines from the different areas in order to get a representation of the entire region. Bottled just a couple of months prior to our visit, it could use a bit more time. 2018 was an exceptional vintage for both the Mâcon and for Beaujolais. The fruit was so ripe and generous that the problem was to maintain some freshness and fruitiness so Dubœuf stopped the malolactic fermentation (transforming the harsher malic acid [think granny smith apple] into the softer lactic acid [think milk or butter]), which is highly unusual as the Dubœuf Chardonnays usually go through 100% malolactic. Bright fresh, elegant. Fruity with lemon and hints of vanilla. A bit round, but completely delightful. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Georges Dubœuf Saint Véran, France: Retail $20. Saint-Véran has been an appellation since only 1971 (I say “only” since while that would make it one of the older appellations in the U.S., it is one of the newer ones in Burgundy). Dubœuf’s goal with the Saint-Véran is to make a wine where one can actually taste the Chardonnay. thus, it is not masked and buried in oak. Nice fruit but a bit closed on the nose. A bit of butter (full malolactic fermentation). Good freshness and fruit with that touch of creaminess. Delicious. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Georges Dubœuf Pouilly Fuissé, France: Retail $35. Outside of the Côte d’Or, Pouilly Fuissé largely is regarded as the top region for Chardonnay in France. Dubœuf is gradually trying to change the perception of Chardonnay–one that manifested itself in California in the late 90s as an overly buttery, overly oaked monster of a wine that often seemed as though you were chewing on bark. This wine only sees 5-6% oak and the goal with the use of barrels is to highlight the fruit and underscore the typicity of both the grape and the region. Fine and elegant. Good fruit. Wonderful on the palate. No, great fruit with wonderful body and a lengthy finish. Wonderful. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
I am just getting started here with my visit to Beaujolais and Georges Dubœuf. More to come soon!
Jeff, do you know the story behind the organ (?) in the tasting room? Could it be the one saved from the Tournus station hotel?