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‘Pope of Beaujolais’ Georges Duboeuf dies at 87

Posted January. 07, 2020 07:52,   

Updated January. 07, 2020 07:52


Georges Duboeuf, the globally famed wine merchant dubbed “Pope of Beaujolais,” died of a stroke on Saturday (local time) at his home. He was 87. Duboeuf is considered as one of the greatest wine merchants of our time who introduced French wine to the world. His crowning achievement was building “Beaujolais Nouveau,” a local specialty of Beaujolais, Bourgogne, into a global brand.

Born in the eastern part of France in 1933, Duboeuf started to help his family’s vinery business at the age of six. When he was ten, he expanded the scope of his work to wine production while delivering his family wine to restaurants in the neighborhood on a bike. This experience gave him the general knowledge on wine production as well as the nose to tell apart fine varieties, and the acumen for distribution and marketing.

Fully grown up, Duboeuf built a winery named after himself. His business began to expand thanks to a rigorous quality control and maintenance of hygiene. In the 1950s, he spearheaded the promotion of local wine of Beaujolais by establishing an association of wine producers.

In particular, the late merchant introduced a new method of wine tasting, which made a splash among wine connoisseurs. Before Duboeuf, aging was a synonym for a tasty, premium wine. What caught his attention was Beaujolais’s tradition of drinking wine fresh off the barrel. This led to an initiative of commercializing Beaujolais Nouveau as uniquely “fresh wine,” cultivating it into a new wine brand.

Beaujolais Nouveau’s popularity grew as it can be imbibed in November, only a few months after harvesting the grapes, and this boosted the popularity of other wine varieties of Beaujolais, which had been overshadowed by Bordeaux. His promotion of Beaujolais festivals helped them burgeon into a global wine event. BBC said that by the time he passed the company on to his son in 2018, the company was producing about “30 million bottles a year that were sold internationally.”

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com