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Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau with Georges Duboeuf and Thomas Keller

Georges Duboeuf and Thomas Keller have much in common. At age 81 Duboeuf tastes wine twice daily for an hour when he is home in the Beaujolais region near headquarters of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. In Keller’s French Laundry kitchen near his home in Yountville, Calif, the word “finesse” is printed about the door. Keller is meticulous about everything at his restaurants—the freshness of the produce, the mark of the silverware and the precision of the staffs’ uniforms.


When November rolls around, both men’s thoughts turn to Beaujolais Nouveau. The tapping of barrels of the just-fermented Beaujolais from the gamay grape is important in both men’s lives. Duboeuf indirectly influenced the grand French—and world-wide—bistro tradition of celebrating the release of new barrels of Beaujolais Nouveau.

In 1964 Duboeuf launched his eponymous company but wasn’t content with traditional labels. In the early 1970s, Duboeuf noticed a bunch of bright flowers on a rainy day in London and sketched them. This drawing became the foundation for his iconic flower label on George Duboeuf Beaujolais from top barrels of the region’s 10 crus.



Duboeuf’s history with restaurant wine lists is long. When he began selling wine, he gravitated to the city of Lyons as a new market. The food-obsessed city was an excellent choice for the energetic new wine salesman. Duboeuf called on Paul Blanc of Le Chapon Fin, one of the first Michelin starred restaurants in France, who encouraged him to sell Beaujolais in special large format bottles.


The Duboeuf influence on the restaurant scene has grown exponentially and globally. Today Blanc’s son Georges owns Restaurant Rouge et Blanc at Hotel Les Maritonnes in Romaneche Thorins near the Duboeuf headquarters and many other restaurants and hotels. In the Beaujolais village of Fleurie, Duboeuf owns Le Cep à Fleurie and his daughter is an owner of Brasserie Léon de Lyon in Lyon.


Duboeuf helped popularize the spread of Beaujolais to Paris in the 1980s. Partnering with American importer William Deutsch, Duboeuf began selling more Beaujolais to the U.S. which prompted more release parties of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November.


Keller remembers the first time he experienced the joy of the Beaujolais Nouveau November release. Beaujolais “Nouveau had so much anticipation and excitement when I was in New York in the early ’80s. It was as memorable as the Ash Wednesday mark on your forehead. I can recall the anticipation and excitement surrounding the release each fall.”


In 1994 Thomas Keller took a risk on buying and re-opening The French Laundry in Yountville. Four years later he opened Bouchon in Yountville followed by Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. The name of his bistro reflects his love of the Lyon dining scene where bouchons proliferated, commemorating their namesake, the corkscrew.


“We have always served Beaujolais Nouveau at our bistros, beginning with our Yountville 16 years ago. I think back to my younger days, and it was always fun to go for the first barrel. I wanted to bring back that celebration of the harvest. We were all excited just to get the wine—enjoy it for what it is at a time of year when it’s all about sharing a meal and memories with friends and family,” said Keller.


In 2013 Keller launched his “Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé” parties at each location on the third Thursday in November announce that the wine had arrived. Though Northern California may celebrate the heartiest, Keller sees each location gaining interest in Beaujolais Nouveau every year.


With memories of his time in Lyon and Beaujolais, Keller collaborated with his chefs to come up with the menu for “Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé.” “With such a food-friendly wine in mind, our menu begins with sauçisson á l’ail en brioche, a house-made garlic sausage in brioche and marinated vegetables.  The main course is a hearty joue de bouef Bourguinon classically prepared—beef cheeks braised in red wine with French round carrots, Tokyo turnips, pearl onions, button mushrooms and egg noodles. To balance the savory courses, we’ll serve marquise au chocolat, a house-made dark chocolate mousse with pistachio anglaise for the finale,” said Keller.


Like Duboeuf with his flower labels, Keller didn’t take the standard route in selecting a brand image for the French Laundry. Keller chose a clothespin, harking back to the origins of the building. Keller recalls his introduction to Duboeuf. “I had the pleasure of meeting him at ¬an event where I was inducted into the Ordre des Compagnons. He has certainly been one of the leading winemakers in Beaujolais; his wines are generational and have been recognized around the world.”




Duboeuf is thrilled to see more interest in the third Thursday of November release parties. “I see more young Americans interested in wine. Their passion for quality is evident. When you walk into a restaurant or wine store, you will see more French wine, more Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau,” said Duboeuf at an interview as a guest at his home across the street from his headquarters.


As for his role in spreading the word in America and now Asia about Beaujolais, Duboeuf remains humble. “I’m more like a philosopher. Wine is a pleasure to share. That’s why we travel, we meet people, and why we opened the Hameau Duboeuf, the Village of Wine down the street. We want people to know about wine and enjoy it.”

As the holidays approach, Beaujolais Nouveau is a wonderful reason to act on Duboeuf’s philosophy. Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive! It’s nearly time to pop the cork or twist the cap at one of Keller’s Bouchons or wherever we may be.













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