Founder and Owner
Les Vins Georges Duboeuf
Georges Duboeuf is the founder of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, one of the largest and best-known wine merchants in France. Duboeuf is well-known for the popularization of Beaujolais wines in the U.S., and especially the Beaujolais Nouveau, the colorful bottles of red wine launched each year during the third week in November. He still heads his company, though into his 70’s, travelling worldwide to keep Beaujolais wine on the minds and palates of consumers. His son, Franck, works closely with him as well.
Georges Duboeuf’s business produces in excess of 25 million cases of wine annually. The brand, which is supplied by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, is among the leading brands of imported table wines in the U.S. In 2007, Duboeuf notched 750,000 9-liter cases in 2007 (projected) in the U.S., the same number as the prior year, according to The Beverage Information Group's Handbook Advance 2008. Imported table wine from France grew by 25 percent in 2006 with its share of the imported market growing from 12.1 percent to 13.9 percent, according to the Adams Wine Handbook 2007. However, French imports have shrunk from a 22.1 percent share in 2000. French wine has been under pressure, resulting from the intense competition in the global wine market. Discounting of wines in the U.S., and the strong euro is making European wines expensive here as well. Here, this wine veteran and expert addresses these crucial issues, and discusses his lifelong love of wine and the iconic Beaujolais Nouveau for which he has become so well known.
The Beverage Information Group (BIG): Your background gave you an early introduction into the world of wine in France. Growing up in a farm family, your family also owned some vineyards. Has wine always been your passion, and at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to go into the wine business?
Georges Duboeuf: I was born in 1933 in the heart of Pouilly Fuisse into a family of vignerons who have been involved with the wine business since at least 1500. At the age of five I was already helping my uncle and brother in the family vineyard, so it was just a natural progression for me to make my adult career in the wine business. I discovered my passion and my mission within the wine business when I was 18 and began delivering wine on my bicycle to local restaurants. I realized then that I wanted to expand the distribution of my regions’ best wines and share their quality with a much wider audience. Today I am told that a bottle of Georges Duboeuf wine is opened every second around the world.
BIG: You have just released a range of new white and red vintage wines from Beaujolais. Please tell me a bit about the “Flower Label” wines, for example, and what they are like.
Duboeuf: The Flower Labels are my signature wines because they are the wines that I make in my own winery with my own winemaking team. For each of the flower labels we purchase grapes from several hand-selected producers, each renowned for specific characteristics, and create the ideal blend that typifies the area from which each flower label wine is derived. The flower labels range in (suggested retail) price from $10.99 for fruity, fresh, easy drinking Beaujolais to $16.99 for a structured Moulin-a-Vent, the “Lord of Beaujolais.”
BIG: Are your wines generally everyday drinking wines, or are they more for special occasions? Do you feel that Americans are catching up to what can be considered the European tradition, in terms of enjoying and appreciating wine fully, and incorporating them more in everyday meals?
Duboeuf: We want consumers to enjoy our wines everyday as a complimentary part of their meal or for social occasions. Our wines are not overpowering and therefore are suitable for many different types of food. For the summer, for example, we suggest serving our Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages reds chilled! We have even dedicated a website in order to educate people about this called chilledred.com. The variety of food that you can pair our chilled Beaujolais with includes: grilled steaks, hamburgers, barbecued chicken, grilled salmon, strawberries, salsa and chips, Pad Thai, pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes and basil, grilled fresh tuna, and grilled veggies – to name just a few!
On the other end of the spectrum we have individual Domaine wines, many that score 90-plus in the leading wine publications, which are ideal for special occasions. These wines are serious wines full of character and typicity, however they still offer excellent value as premium quality wines from Burgundy, and therefore are still appropriate for nice dinners at home or ordering at your favorite restaurant.
BIG: There is a lot of competition today in the global wine market. There has also been a good deal of discounting of wines in the U.S., and the dollar vis a vis the euro is making some European wines very expensive here as well. How do you feel French wines can compete successfully in today’s challenging wine market?
Duboeuf: Unfortunately we cannot control the currency situation and the price of many French wines has increased due to the strong Euro, however what we can do is continue to educate US consumers and demystify French wines. We are doing this through our websites, winewithoutrules.com and chilledred.com, sampling (for example the entire Kimpton hotel chain will pour our wines during happy hour to their hotel guests for the month of June), and our advertising campaign which good naturedly pokes fun at the French.
We are also cutting our own margins in order to ensure that our wines continue to represent excellent value for money during this challenging period. Our wine sales, particularly Beaujolais sales to the on trade around the world continues to increase, and we have just completed consumer research in the US that shows that Beaujolais has a very good reputation and a bright future in the market.
BIG: You are often credited as “the king of Beaujolais Nouveau,” as you are almost single-handedly responsible for popularizing this type of wine. The Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau always gets a lot of buzz when it arrives in the U.S. – and elsewhere around the world -- each year. There are parties and events to herald its arrival, and lots of merchandising and point-of-sale promotions in the off-premise. When did you first develop these clever ideas for promoting the Beaujolais Nouveau, and how did you create them?
Duboeuf: In the 60’s, a journalist sent by my friend Paul Bocuse came to Romaneche to do a paper for the magazine Express. I took him on a tour of the region and visted several domains. We spoke at great length and tasted many wines. After this meeting, he wrote a 3 page article with the headline “Georges Duboeuf, the king of Beaujolais”.
I was very fortunate to be raised in beaujolais and to participate to the Beaujolais Nouveau promotion in France and all over the world. We used to organize, every year, the night before the release of Nouveau, a big event event just like we used to organize a big event after the release of Nouveau in New York with the Deutsch family.
Nouveau is France’s most popular wine and probably the most media-friendly all over the world. Big celebrations have been organized by restaurants, hotel chains, French Chamber of Commerce, brotherhoods like “Les Compagnons du Beaujolais”, without mentioning wine shops that do a great job at decorating their front windows for the occasion. At the beginning, every player (winegrowers, cooperatives, negociants…) did its very best to come up with ideas, concepts to promote this unique wine – unique by its style, its fresh fruity aromas, soft and round, perfect for this festive time of the year.
BIG: Also regarding your Beaujolais Nouveau: the bottles are also well known for their colorful floral designs. Who creates the artwork for these and how are the designs chosen each year? Also, the Beaujolais Nouveau is released in the U.S. exactly the same time each year – the third Thursday in November, regardless of the harvest time. How was this time chosen?
Duboeuf: Alain Vavro is the artist behind the original Beaujolais Nouveau labels. His extraordinary use of color and vibrant imagery helped to give Beaujolais Nouveau the iconic status that it has today. Vavro went on to work with Paul Bocuse, Villeroy & Bach, and many other famous names in the culinary world. Now we also invite other young artistic talents to propose designs for each year’s Beaujolais Nouveau label.
It is government regulation that the Beaujolais Nouveau is released every year on the third Thursday in November.
BIG: There seems to be an imbalance in supply and demand for Beaujolais Nouveau in recent years, as sales have tapered off somewhat. Is too much Beaujolais Nouveau being produced today, and what steps are French wine makers in the region taking to correct the situation?
Duboeuf: The 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau campaign has been very good in terms of volume as well as in terms of quality. The wines were praised by consumers. Every year, the office of Beaujolais Wines takes measures to level the supply and the demand depending on perspectives. Besides, It is important to note that the Beaujolais appellation requested to lower the yields to 50 hectoliter per hectare, which is very reasonable compared to other appellations that requested 52hl/ha.
The Beaujolais appellation is indeed very seriously managed.