Between 1979 and 1991, Christopher Piper Wines distributed the wines of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf in the West Country. This was probably the period when Duboeuf’s domaine-bottles crus were at their apogee and it was partly due to our involvement with Georges Duboeuf that Christopher Piper Wines managed to gain recognition amongst the West Country’s restaurants and hotels.
The man who helped put modern Beaujolais on the map, sadly passed away last Saturday evening, at his home in Romanèche-Thorins. Georges Duboeuf began an amazing career as a ‘mobile’ bottler, then at the head of a group of growers, promoting their domaine-bottled wines (L’Ecrin du Beaujolais). In 1964, he launched Les Vins Georges Duboeuf and as this specialist négociant business grew, it coincided with the development of Beaujolais Nouveau, during the 1970’s, with Georges Duboeuf very much the figurehead and locomotive driving this crazily successful marketing concept. 1993 saw the opening of Le Hameau du Vin at Romanèche-Thorins, Duboeuf’s cultural wine museum, something he had started thinking about in his late teens! Towards the end of his career, Duboeuf became increasingly re-focused on domaine-bottled wines from the Beaujolais and Mâconnais.
In the UK, Georges Duboeuf always worked with his close friend and agent, Joseph Berkmann, both of whom organised extraordinarily lavish and in-depth tastings, every March, at Romanèche-Thorins, to introduce the new vintage. At the beginning of the 1980’s, Duboeuf’s wines were distributed through Berkmann Wine Cellars and the Duboeuf ‘regional agents’ which included Pagendham, Pratt & Partners, Anthony Byrne Fine Wines, James Nicholson, Alexander Hadleigh (Del Taylor) and ourselves at Christopher Piper Wines. These were serious tastings where each agent and a wide range of other UK customers could select their wines for the year. Georges Duboeuf presided and it was at these tastings that one realised what an exceptional taster he was. His close friend and oenologist, Guy Marion (seen together in the main picture), always tasted with Georges; Marion is still the chief oenologist today, after 45 years with the Duboeufs.
I can assure you that all this was an awe-inspiring experience for wine trade novices, such as John and me. These stellar and mammoth tastings also included famous starred Michelin chefs like Paul Bocuse, Georges Blanc and the Troisgros brothers. Michel Roux (snr.) was a regular, along with the ‘house comedian’, Richard Shepherd (Langan’s) (pictured with Joseph Berkmann). Joseph often also brought together a whole host of wine trade names, including Jancis Robinson, Richard Peat, Harry Waugh and Oz Clarke. He was always ably assisted by Berkmann Wine Cellars MD at the time, Claude Giret.
Franck Duboeuf is in charge now but it will be Georges’ grandson, Adrien Duboeuf-Lacombe, who will propel Les Vins Georges Duboeuf to impressive things in the future. Georges Duboeuf will be sorely missed by the people of the Beaujolais region and our thoughts are with his wife, Rolande and his two children, Fabienne and Franck.