Georges Duboeuf, who has died aged 86, was known as "le roi du Beaujolais" and was credited with turning Beaujolais Nouveau, a drink once handed out for nothing on village
streets, into a major product.
In the 1970s, Duboeuf, who had set up his own production company, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, in 1964, was looking for a new idea to steal a march on his rivals. He noticed how villages in Beaujolais had taken to celebrating each new harvest by sploshing raw wine into the goblets of vineyard workers and passers-by.
The merriment of the occasion made up for the new wine's shortcomings, and the practice spread to the streets of Lyon and even to Paris, where from the 1950s there was an annual race among restaurateurs to get their hands on the first bottles.
Intrigued by the razzmatazz, Duboeuf wondered whether the wine, originally released each year on November 15 (now on the third Thursday of November), might have a wider market.
Over the next few years, under the marketing slogan "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive" he set to work to spread the atmosphere of revelry and anticipation around the world.
Throughout the 1980s, he held Beaujolais Nouveau festivals which were attended by celebrities, including Michelin-starred restaurateurs, and his enthusiastic promotion of the wine led to its annual release date becoming known across the world as Beaujolais Nouveau Day. By the peak of the boom in the late 1980s, Duboeuf was selling more than 250,000 cases a year, with restaurateurs around the world competing to be the first to take delivery.
Georges Duboeuf was born on April 14, 1933 in Creches, near the village of Chaintre, in Pouilly-Fuisse, an appellation in Burgundy which specialised in Chardonnay and where his family owned a few acres of vines. Georges showed enterprise from an early age, delivering wines to restaurants on his bicycle. By the end of the 1950s, his Pouilly-Fuisse had developed a following not only in his native Burgundy but also in Paris.
Georges Duboeuf married Rolande, the daughter of a fellow wine salesman, in the early 1960s. She survives him with their daughter, Fabienne, and their son, Franck, who has run the family business since 2018.
In Ireland the wines are distributed by Febvre.