This past fall, I received many of the Georges Dubœuf wines that are imported into this country. I had visited Beaujolais over the summer and had the honor of tasting through many of the wines with Georges Dubœuf himself, an experience that I will cherish for as long as my memory remains intact.
Georges Dubœuf is perhaps most associated with Beaujolais Nouveau, the fruity, inexpensive wine released on the third Thursday of November every year with great fanfare. While it is certainly true that the success of the wine that was initially made as a celebration of the just concluded harvest is closely tied to Monsieur Dubœuf’s marketing acumen, he was first and foremost the region’s premier négociant.
Georges Dubœuf was born in 1933 in Crêches-sur-Saône, just a few kilometers from Chaintré where he grew up on his family’s farm. His parents, descendants of a long line of winemakers, had a small plot of Chardonnay vines which they sold off as bulk Pouilly-Fuissé wine to area merchants.
Eventually, young Georges joined his older brother Roger running the family business and felt that their wine was good enough to bottle and sell on its own. Georges crisscrossed the region, often by bike, looking to sell his wine to restaurants in the area. He sold his wine to the MIchelin two-starred restaurant, Le Chapon Fin, in Thoissey, about 15 kilometers away.
Paul Blanc, the celebrated chef at Le Chapon Fin, asked Georges to find him a red wine that was just as good as his Pouilly-Fuissé. This led M.Dubœuf on a journey that would eventually “crown” him as the Pope of Beaujolais.
There are many négociants in France and even the casual drinker of French wines has likely tasted a négociant wine. They exist in most regions in France buying either fruit from individual growers to make their own wine or purchasing already vinified bulk wine which they then bottle under their own label. Louis Jadot and Faiveley in Burgundy, Hugel in Alsace, and nearly every large house in Champagne are négociants, purchasing fruit and wine from myriad growers and bottling the wine under their own label.
Georges Dubœuf, from the start, was different in one significant way, however. Stemming from a partnership that he formed with Alexis Lichine, the Russian-born American wine merchant living in Bordeaux, Dubœuf did not purchase wine for his own label, but rather helped the local producers to bottle the wine on the premises, enabling the wine to be labeled as “Estate.”
In order to make this happen, in fact, M. Dubœuf created one of the world’s first mobile bottling units out of an old Renault truck that had previously been used as a mobile x-ray unit.
Today, Les Vins Georges Dubœuf helps produce and market 80 different Domaines and Châteaux wines, all under their own individual label, with just a small indication on the back of the négociant’s role. Many of these relationships have existed for decades and few have written contracts as the Dubœuf name and reputation carry a lot of weight.
In fact, on my visit there last year, I was able to speak to several of the growers that partner with Georges Dubœuf and all spoke glowingly about the relationship. One particular grower, though, took it a step further. He intimated that his father had begun making wine with Georges Dubœuf four decades prior and maintained until the day he died that the happiest day of his life was the day that Georges Dubœuf tasted his wines and they agreed on their partnership.
2018 Domaine Béranger Pouilly-Fuissé, France: Retail $40. 100% Chardonnay. Georges Dubœuf has been buying wine from the Béranger family for over twenty years, and the family has been in Pouilly for over 200. So yeah, a bit of history here. Pale with a slight green tint and aromas of pear, lime, and white flowers. The palate is reserved, but flavorful with plenty of fruit, a lip-smacking tartness, and a subtle mineral aspect that really comes through on the lengthy finish. Don’t serve too cold and have a bit of patience with this wine, and you will be rewarded. Bigly. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Domaine Les Chenevières Mâcon-Villages, France: Retail $25. 100% Chardonnay. Slight straw color, with tree fruit, steely citrus, white flower, and a bit of hazelnut on the nose. The palate is tart and quite angular, with lovely pear fruit and a slight creaminess. Wines from the Mâcon are the only white Burgundies that I can afford these days, and there are several in the Dubœuf orbit that are stellar. As is this one. Fantastic. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie, Beaujolais, France: Retail: $25. 100% Gamay. It seems like forever ago, but I visited La Domaine des Quatre Vents last year. The wines (and setting) were phenomenal. That is equally true in my home as I popped this bottle binge-watching Parks and Recreation since that is pretty much the only thing I am legally allowed to do (other than teaching my son to drive or learning what Tik-Tok is). Fruity, yet complex, with a ton of that “bubble-gum thing” going on. Sadly, Georges Dubœuf died earlier this year, but the wines live on (OK, yeah, that was horribly cliché). Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Domaine du Riaz Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais, France: Retail $24. 100% Gamay. 2018 was a phenomenal year in Beaujolais and this Côte de Brouilly is no exception. A dark crimson in the glass with dark fruit, granite, and purple flower on the nose. Lovely. Fruity, fleshy, and fresh on the palate with plenty of fruit, but also spice, depth, and even tannin (particularly on the finish). This is a bold wine (even for a Côte de Brouilly) and will likely benefit from some time in the cellar. Close to a Whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.