Georges Duboeuf Chardonnay 2017, Pays d’Oc, France
F amily wineries fascinate me, whether large or small, because you usually see a lot of passion from the people who work at family businesses. To them, it’s not just a job or a paycheck, it’s a family legacy.
What’s really nice to see is these family wineries re-invent themselves or make adjustments over the generations.
That seems to be what is happening at Les Vins Georges Duboeuf where the family has been producing wines for more than four centuries, but new ventures keep popping up. Georges Duboeuf has been one of the best known high quality wine operations for as long as I can remember.
Their latest venture is a line of wonderful, inexpensive wines with modern labels, each featuring a single wildflower. It is a twist on a longstanding line of flower labels from Duboeuf. These wines are identified by their varietal, rather than the place where the grapes were grown, which is the custom in France.
This is the work of Franck Duboeuf, Georges’ son, who is working with his father and mother in leadership of the sprawling wine empire. Georges based his company on his belief that wine should, as best as possible, express the terroir and the vintner’s expertise in a single bottle. These new wines fit that philosophy perfectly.
I sampled four of the new wines, and while they all were outstanding, I liked the chardonnay best of all. The Georges Duboeuf Chardonnay 2017 ($11-13), is a bright, refreshing wine. To me it had a hint of butterscotch without the sweetness, a firm, flinty chardonnay with no butter and only the slightest touch of oak.
In the glass it is a beautiful buttercup yellow with aromas of peach, apple and citrus. It is smooth and creamy with a long, clean finish.
The grapes for this wine came from south-facing IGP vineyards in the Pays d’Oc department of Aude in the south of France. In the new French classification system IGP is the middle rating, between the lowest level of Vin de France and AOP, or Appellation d’origine protegee.
The vineyards are in the high valleys of the Pyrenees Mountains foothills, which has an ideal climate wedged between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. After picking and destemming the grapes are pressed and the juice undergoes fermentation at controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats. Frequent pump-overs keep the wine infused with complex fruit flavors.
I interviewed Franck Duboeuf via email, and he explained the reasoning behind the new series:
“The ‘Wildflower’ labels for our new Pays d’Oc Varietal wines was created partially to subtly align them with our Georges Duboeuf ‘flower label’ wines that my father created back in the 1980s,” Franck wrote, “that are on a simple white background with a different flower on each appellation of the Beaujolais and Mâconnais regions. However, the main reason is to reinforce that the grapes for these wines are sustainably grown. Each of the four labels features a different local wildflower that grows naturally, where the vineyards are located.
“For our new wines from the Pays d’Oc, the grapes for each of the four varietals come from a number of vineyards in the region so it is much less confusing to label the wine by its variety, and this is also the way most consumers are used to seeing wines labeled from that region.”
As for the other wines in the series, the merlot is extremely smooth, but with good body, flavors of plum and cassis with spice and licorice. I found a lot of finesse, elegance and some muscle without overly strong tannins. This is another great wine at this price.
The pinot noir showcases red fruits and spices with a rich and luxurious mouthfeel. It tastes the way you would expect a French pinot noir to taste.
The cabernet sauvignon features a black cherry, spice and vanilla profile that benefits from a subtle touch of French oak. It is a pleasant wine, but the weakest of the four, with less depth than the others. All these wines are meant to be drunk within a year or so of purchase.
While these wines will be enjoyed by novice and veteran wine drinkers alike, I thought they seemed particularly aimed at a younger market, so I asked Franck if he was seeing more young people interested in wine than before.
“I wouldn’t so much say more young people than in the past, but more young people with greater wine knowledge (probably largely due to the vast amount of wine information found on the internet),” he wrote. “This knowledge is coupled with a curiosity about wine and a willingness to experiment with grape varieties and regions that have not been on many consumers’ ‘wine radar’ in the past.”
As for the future, this fall will see the first release of Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé in the United States. The third Thursday in November is marked by French law as the day for release of the first wine of the harvest, Beaujolais Nouveau.
So if our local wine shops receive their shipments we all will be able to celebrate Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé on November 15. With the exploding popularity of French rosé I’m not surprised Duboeuf will release this rosé. It should be something special for the holidays.
Winery: Georges Duboeuf created Les Vins Georges Duboeuf in September 1964, but the story begins more than four centuries ago when the Duboeuf family was producing wine in the Mâconnais region.
The family knowledge grew through techniques handed down over the generations. Georges’ uncle and brother passed along the passion and the production secrets to him when he was still quite young. At 18 he decided to stop pursuing his studies and join the family business with his brother.
He would hop on his bicycle with bottles of family-grown wines to meet with top restaurateurs to convince them to carry Duboeuf wines from Beaujolais in their restaurants. The wines were popular and this led Georges to branch out.
He developed relations with other regional winemakers which allowed him to offer wines that reflected the diversity of the surrounding vineyards. He created a producers group representing more than 40 winemakers from throughout the region, changing the face of how wine was sold.
When Georges created his wine company in 1964 it also marked the start of his wine merchant business. He applied his ancestors’ traditional methods to modern winemaking: respect for the terroir and work of the winemaker, rigorous selection and monitoring of wines at the time of bottling, and above all, the continuous search for high quality, with clean bottling processes.
Georges has become an ambassador of the region, and Beaujolais wines are known throughout the world for their quality. Duboeuf is one of the first brands I can remember drinking when I started drinking wine 50 years ago. I visited the Duboeuf cellars in 1984 as a wine tourist and was impressed by the wines and the hospitality. Since then the operation has only grown.
“The biggest physical differences (since 1984) are that we built and opened Le Hameau Duboeuf, where visitors are entertained while they learn about the history of winemaking in the Beaujolais region,” Franck wrote. “Almost 3 million people have visited our museum since its opening. Then, in 2002, we built a state-of-the-art winery.
“As far as changes in the way we operated in the mid-1980s to today: as a ‘negociant eleveur,’ we work closely with more than 300 growers families – with some, we are now working with the third generation! We have added high quality properties into our portfolio and have launched more Domaines.”
The next Duboeuf generation, represented by Georges’s grandson, Adrien, is ready to join the family adventure.
Finally, I asked Franck if it is difficult to follow in the footsteps of a legend such as his father.
“My father’s vision and expertise continues to inspire me. I have a great team, talented suppliers and supportive customers,” he wrote.
And did he ever consider another profession?
“Just wine,” was the succinct response.
Goes with: We had this with a simple summer meal of steamed shrimp and tossed salad. The easy meal allowed the beauty of the Duboeuf chardonnay to take center stage, dazzling us with its surprisingly complex flavors and bright freshness.
The wine also would pair well with most kinds of fish and seafood, including sushi, grilled fish, exotic Asian dishes, orange salad with mint and all kinds of cheeses.
Georges Duboeuf Chardonnay 2017, Pays d’Oc, France