I remember it very well: my son landed an internship at Georges Duboeuf’s Hameau, a kind of Disney vision of a wine museum. He was the only male on staff and was in charge of escorting English speaking groups through the Hameau. He lived in Lyon and took the commuter train every day to Romanèche-Thorins where the winery and museum are located.
Duboeuf’s biggest claim to fame was his popularizing the arrival of Nouveau Beaujolais, the first wine of the vintage from grapes just harvested weeks earlier. On the third Thursday of November, there is a race
to get the first wines- the primeur- to market. The market grew, in large part thanks to Duboeuf, to
include all wine markets throughout the world.
Signs with “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé” were proudly hung up in restaurants and wine shops throughout the world heralding the arrival of the first wines of the current vintage. Who cares that the wine was barely stronger than grape juice; Dubeouf created the sizzle and it worked marvelously.
The market for Nouveau soured about 2005 and since as much as 60% of the production of Beaujolais went into the Nouveau wines, growers were left with an oversupply. This created an image of a mediocre wine that has been difficult to erase.
Through it all, Duboeuf remained optimistic. He believed that if steps were taken to improve the quality of Beaujolais, the prices would also rise. Today high end cru Beaujolais that come from the individual villages are popular and selling for prices that years ago would have been impossible to imagine.
If you ever get to this very nice area of France, so close to Burgundy, you should definitely visit the Hameau and try to taste wines from all the Beaujolais villages.