30 Second Wine Advisor: A fresh look at Duboeuf

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In This Issue

 A fresh look at Duboeuf
A new book provides intriguing insight into the long life of Georges Duboeuf, "the King of Beaujolais," and how he turned the region's fortunes around.
 Two Beaujolais from Georges Duboeuf
Duboeuf 2005 Chiroubles ($11.99) and Duboeuf 2005 Beaujolais-Villages ($9.99) demonstrate the house style: Fruity but vibrant with zippy acidity; the once-familiar "banana" character is gone, and we don't miss it.
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 This week on WineLoversPage.com
A trip to the Loire Valley, seeking value in West Coast Cabernets, and sparkling wine for summer. We'll travel to Argentina in Saturday's Internet Radio TalkShoe. On our forums, "travel shock" is a hot topic, and we poll the age at which you got serious about wine.
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A fresh look at Duboeuf

I'll Drink to That
You can pre-order "I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine" by Rudolph Chelminski from Amazon.com in hardcover for $18.15, a 34 percent discount from the $27.50 list price. Orders placed now at this sale price will be delivered when it's published in early autumn.
For a wine that's generally modest and so easy to like that the French coined the term "gouleyant" ("gulpable") to describe it, Beaujolais gets surprisingly little respect.

The 14th Century Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy so despised the Gamay grape of Beaujolais that he outlawed it in Bourgogne in 1395, ordering Gamay vines ripped out by the roots and replaced with the more desirable Pinot Noir.

But Philip's edict didn't apply in the natural home of Beaujolais, a then-forgotten backwater, where they've been growing and making Beaujolais from Gamay ever since. For most of the following 600 years, Beaujolais toiled in isolated, rural poverty because hardly anyone (except, notably, the thirsty gourmands in food-savvy Lyon nearby) thought much of the wine.

It's almost remarkable that a beverage so lightly regarded has become one of the world's most popular wines, with more than 70 million bottles sold annually, putting it right up there on a plane with (and likely earning little more respect than) McDonald's hamburgers.

In Beaujolais, of course, the no-longer-poor descendants of those hard-working French farmers are laughing all the way to the bank. And by and large, much of the region's commercial success can be attributed to one man, Georges Duboeuf, who earned the title "King of Beaujolais" the old-fashioned way, through hard work.

I've had the pleasure this month of reading galley proofs of an intriguing book set for publication this fall, by Rudolph Chelminski, who's perhaps best known as author of "The Perfectionist," his excellent biography of Bernard Loiseau, the troubled French chef who took his own life in 2003, depressed by declining ratings and the fear that he might lose his lofty third Guide Michelin star.

This is a happier tale, the success story of, as Chelminski puts it in his subtitle, the "French peasant" who has become one of the world's most successful wine makers and led the transformation of his region from rural backwater to source of highly popular, commercially successful wines.

In similar fashion as "The Perfectionist," which weaved the life of Loiseau into an extended overview of the development of high-end French cuisine in the 20th Century, Chelminski's new book - "I'll Drink to That" - tells of Duboeuf's life along with the history and culture of Beaujolais, from Philip the Bold to the present, with lavish attention given to the evolution of the Beaujolais Nouveau craze and the associated rise in popularity of Beaujolais in general.

As Chelminski puts it in his foreword, Duboeuf was only 18 when he "revolted against an unfair, illogical distribution system run for the benefit of a dealers' cartel, and did it so well and so thoroughly that he rose to become the biggest dealer of all - but one of an entirely new style. Beaujolais, then, is a double success story, the wine and the man ... "

The author discloses, "I count Georges Duboeuf as a friend. I am partial. I am partial to Georges because of his admirable personal qualities - integrity, sincerity, constancy - and for having served as my initiator and guide to the Beaujolais. He generously shared with me his unparalleled knowledge of for the country, its people and, of course, its wines."

I raced through the book over a weekend, tapping into several samples of Duboeuf Beaujolais to inform the process, and I'll say that any possible loss of objectivity related to this friendship is more than offset by the depth, color and texture of Chelminski's report. Reading this book and, of course, tasting a little of the wine, is the next-best thing to touring the Beaujolais, eating and drinking and meeting the wine makers.

Following are my notes on two recently tasted Beaujolais from Georges Duboeuf. I can't say how much the book changed my attitude, but fairness compels me to confess that I found both wines much more well-constructed and frankly appealing than I remembered. They're fruit-forward certainly, with the balance more tilted toward fruit and minerality than I find in some of the Beaujolais I love from artisanal producers like J.P. Brun. But the old yeast-based "banana" scent is gone, and the wines - particularly the Chiroubles - are nicely balanced, crisp and refreshing, and offer good value at their price points.

You can pre-order "I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine" by Rudolph Chelminski from Amazon.com in hardcover for $18.15, a 34 percent discount from the $27.50 list price. Orders placed now at this sale price will be delivered when it's published in early autumn.
Purchases made using this direct link will return a small commission to us at WineLoversPage.com and help make it possible for us to provide our online information and communities and distribute The 30 Second Wine Advisor without charge.

Two from Georges Duboeuf

Duboeuf 2005 Chiroubles ($11.99)

Georges Duboeuf

Very dark reddish-purple, surprisingly dark for a Beaujolais, a whiff of lightly toasted white bread. Bright and fresh, juicy plums, fruity but no "fruit bomb," as zippy acidity gives structure and balance, with subtle minerality in the background; already very pleasant drinking indeed, but like many of the better 2005 "Cru" Beaujolais - those that bear their village name (like "Chiroubles") on the label, it will benefit from a little cellar time. U.S. importer: W.J.Deutsch & Sons Ltd., Harrison, N.Y. (May 29, 2007)

Georges Duboeuf 2005 Beaujolais-Villages ($9.99)

Georges Duboeuf

Clear, dark purple, glints of reddish-violet. Ripe and fresh, juicy strawberries on the nose and palate. Soft but sufficient acidity for balance; light tannins in the finish. Nicely balanced Beaujolais, stereotypically "gulpable;" try serving it lightly chilled to maximize its refreshing nature. U.S. importer: W.J.Deutsch & Sons Ltd., Harrison, N.Y. (May 31, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: I like Beaujolais' combination of fruit, acidity and earth with aromatic, if not necessarily hot-and-spicy, ethnic fare. The Chiroubles was a surprisingly good match with an Italian-style ragù of ground turkey and crisp pork belly with an exotic dash of cumin-scented North African ras al hanout. The Beaujolais-Villages went well with a Hunan-style home-style tofu with ground pork and black beans. Of course you can go the simpler route with steaks, grilled chicken or even juicy burgers.

Find vendors and compare prices for Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais on Wine-Searcher.com:

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This week on WineLoversPage.com

WebWineMan: Wine Travels - The Loire Valley
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WineBlueBook: 2000-2004 West Coast Cabernet Sauvignon
For West Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 may be the value vintage, but 2002 and 2003 have more value wines.

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Our Internet radio "TalkShoe": Argentina - More than Malbec
Alex Audisio is scheduled to join from Buenos Aires to tell us about the variety and qualities of the wines from Argentina in our next live TalkShoe on Saturday, June 16, at 1 p.m. US EDT (2 p.m. in Argentina and 19:00 in Western Europe).
If you missed last Saturday's Talkshoe on single-varietal wines vs. blends, you can still tune it in, and audition all our archived editions with streaming audio online. Click to listen:

WineLovers Discussion Group: "Travel shock," another data point
Do the bumps and jumps of travel or shipment have a significant if temporary effect on the drinkability of fine wine, or is this just another myth? Read this discussion, and feel free to comment or ask questions, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.

Netscape/Compuserve Community Poll: I got serious about wine ...
How old were you when you first got seriously into wine as hobby, interest and passion? Barely legal ... or less? Or did you come to wine later in life? Pick your personal drinking age in this week's poll; then join the discussion and tell us more about your story!

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Bourbon or Scotch whisk(e)y? (Jun 8, 2006)

 Sherry Baby, can you come out tonight? (Jun 6, 2006)

 Malbec by any other name (Jun 4, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Hungarian slaw (Jun 7, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: