WINE O’CLOCK: The king is dead, long live his wine
The wine world has lost one of its best-known names with the recent death of Georges Duboeuf, the man they called ‘le roi’ and sometimes ‘le pape’.
French wine makers tend not to be good at marketing. A lot of their product is sold under the labels of obscure vineyards. They can be hard to pronounce if you don’t speak French and they don’t tell you much about the wine itself.
Duboeuf took a different approoach. He transformed a quaint Beaujolais harvest ritual, celebrating the year’s first wine, into the global phenomenon of Beaujolais Nouveau and turned his family’s small business into an international powerhouse.
Duboeuf created a race to deliver the first Beaujolais of the season.
At 12:01am on the on the third Thursday of November – the first day that it became legal to ship the new wine – crates of it were loaded onto trucks, trains and eventually planes, in a well co-ordinated effort to get it into cafés and restaurants that day.
“Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” became an exultant cry in many countries, including Ireland.
The race fell out of a favour here after 1984 when several well-known journalists and caterers died in a plane crash while bringing back the wine.
It’s not a big deal anywhere nowadays, but Duboeuf’s clever promotion achieved its aim of turning an unfashionable rustic wine into an international brand.
Beaujolais (nouveau or not) is one of my favourite wines, the red I turn to if I just want to drink a glass by itself, not paired with food.
It is bright and smooth and benefits from being lightly chilled.
There are a some Beaujolais ‘crus’ that don’t carry the name: Brouilly, St Amour, Morgon and the ever-popular Fleurie, for instance. But if you want a nice, drinkable wine that doesn’t cost a fortune, the Duboeuf labels are hard to beat.
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages (€12.99 SuperValu) is the perfect example. Pierre Ponnelle Beaujolais-Villages (Dunnes, €12) is another. Good wine, good price.
Going upmarket a little, you might like to try Domaine de la Plaigne Beaujolais Nouveau (€15.99 Worldwide Wines, Waterford).
Or Domaine de la Cote des Garants AOP Fleurie (€14.99, Spar).