AN INTERVIEW WITH FRANCK DUBOEUF, CEO OF LES VINS GEORGE DUBOEUF
by Andrew Chalk
Houston, TX, USA: Thursday November 21st (Beaujolais Nouveau Release Day)
Q: How has the 2019 growing season been?
Franck Duboeuf: The harsh weather conditions shaped this vintage, and got on the nerves of the vine growers. However, thanks to very fine conditions in late August and September we were able to put together a great nouveau vintage. Production was down substantially from the abundant 2018 vintage (525,000hl vs. 750,000hl) but good balance (acid levels good relative to the alcohol level).
Q: Has the style of Beaujolais Nouveau evolved since its inception in the U.S. in 1972?
Franck Duboeuf: Yes. Greater experience and better equipment have helped make much better wine.
Q: Tariffs: The United States has imposed 25% tariffs on French agricultural imports on October 18th. How is that affecting you?
Franck Duboeuf: This came as a huge surprise and just before the start of the 2019 nouveau retail selling season. Les Vins Georges Duboeuf and its exclusive U.S. importer Quintessential Wines agreed, for the 2019 vintage, to each absorb one third of the tariff. Quintessential would try to persuade its distributors to absorb the other third (many did, for example in Texas), resulting in no price effect of tariffs on consumers. We agreed with this in order to maintain long-term support for French wines in the U.S. market. Allowing the price to increase by the full amount of the tariff would have lost U.S. consumers who would be difficult to win back. Absorbing the tariff would maintain sales at existing levels. At the French end of the supply chain it also meant that we could maintain our contracts with growers.
Q: Logistics: I have always been amazed that you can blend a consistent wine out of the fruit of 350 growers. Can you tell us the secret?
Franck Duboeuf: Les Vins Georges Duboeuf is a négociante. We buy grapes, juice, and finished wine. We deal ultimately with 350 growers in Beaujolais. Some are individuals, others are members of one of the 9 cooperatives in Beaujolais and we work with most of these. Our task is to grade and blend all of the resulting wine. We taste more than 6,500 wines in this process, every 2-3 days, rating them in our computer database. Finally we make the blends. There are more than 40 different blends of nouveau, aimed at different national markets or white label customers. One of the hardest parts is that the tasting starts with fruit juice and our staff have to extrapolate how it will develop as finished wine.
Q: How do you see climate change affecting Beaujolais?
Franck Duboeuf: The start of picking moves forward about one week each decade. It was mid September, whereas now it is late August. Viticulture methods, especially canopy management, have changed to counter heat waves. Unlike the situation in some other areas I do not see a change in grape varieties. Gamay will remain the backbone.