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'Pope of Beaujolais' wine merchant Georges Duboeuf dies at 86

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'Pope of Beaujolais' wine merchant Georges Duboeuf dies at 86
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AFP
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Georges Duboeuf, a French wine merchant known as the 'Pope of Beaujolais', died on Saturday, his family said on Sunday.

Duboeuf, 86, suffered a stroke on Saturday afternoon in his home in Romanèche-Thorins, near Lyon in France, and died soon after, his daughter-in-law Anne told AFP.

Duboeuf was renowned for his relentless promotion of the "Beaujolais Nouveau" - a super-quick turnaround bottling from the harvesting of the region's Gamay grape - which he turned into a global phenomenon in the 1980s. The release of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is celebrated worldwide on Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

This achievement earned him the nickname of "Pope of Beaujolais" wine.

Georges Duboeuf had retired in 2018, when his son Franck officially took over his wine business, Vins Georges Duboeuf, which produces 30 million wine bottles a year.

The Duboeuf family has been in the wine industry for four centuries.

Based in Romanèche-Thorins, Duboeuf's wine company founded in 1964 had led in the village to the creation of a wine museum, a shop, offices and a wine tasting bar.

"This makes me very sad. We will miss him. He was a partner and a loyal friend", the Michelin-starred chef Georges Blanc told the AFP, adding that Duboeuf was a "tireless ambassador of the Beaujolais".

Georges Duboeuf was also known for the splendid celebrations he organised around the Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1980s, attended by celebrities, famous chefs and politicians alike.

"He had always been a figure in the region, the potential of which he promoted", Dominique Piron, the president of the InterBeaujolais group, told the AFP. "He raised the Beaujolais flag worldwide."

"Georges Duboeuf had flair, intuition, and was ahead of his time."

Julien Bertrand, winemaker at the Domaine Bertrand in the Beaujolais region, told Euronews that although the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations remain "beautiful", the current market has "heavily dropped" and "is nothing like it was 20 years ago".

The Beaujolais Nouveau was the first wine to have its own celebrations, he said. "But it's becoming more and more difficult to sell the same volumes."

This is due to a combination of factors, he said, among them the exaggerated marketing around the Beaujolais Nouveau's aromas, which in the last two decades focused on its 'banana' taste.

"It's become a cliche", he said. "People who haven't taste the wine will say: "That's disgusting, it tastes like banana."

Bertrand produces some Beaujolais Nouveau, but it's not its best-selling wine, nor a big part of his production. "The fad has passed", he said. "We still make it, in lesser quantities. The focus is more on quality now."

Like many of his fellow winemakers. Bertrand is keen to distinguish Beaujolais - which can be carefully made, cellared and aged - from Beaujolais Nouveau, which is more of an occasion than a wine.

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