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Duboeuf Eyes Vineyard Acquisitions, Prepares New Extension To HobNob Label

August 6, 2012

Amid intense pressure from the onslaught of New World wines over the past decade, one of France’s pioneering brands in the U.S. market, Georges Duboeuf, has lost more than half its volume, slipping from 1.1 million cases in 2002 to around 400,000 currently. Still, Duboeuf, imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, remains among the leading French players in the U.S. And while its core brand has struggled to find its footing, the company has a growth engine on its hands with its more recent entry-level label, HobNob, which leapt 15% to 173,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank.

HobNob has found its niche through a combination of attractive pricing ($9.99-$10.99) and New World positioning. Currently featuring a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the brand is entering the red blend category this September with the launch of HobNob Wicked Red, a 13%-abv offering composed of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir.

Amid HobNob’s progress, one of the linchpins in the Duboeuf portfolio is still its Beaujolais Nouveau, released each year on the third Thursday of November, according to tradition. Deutsch Family president Tom Steffanci said this year’s launch, which represents the 30th anniversary of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau in the U.S., will be heralded with a number of celebratory events to mark the milestone. Duboeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau sells around 160,000 cases in the U.S. each year.

Duboeuf is also gearing up to release its 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Crus. “The 2011 is an excellent millésime for Beaujolais,” Georges Duboeuf proprietor Franck Duboeuf told Shanken News Daily, noting that warm, dry weather through the summer led to an early harvest in late August. “We were a bit worried because of this quick ripening, but altogether we produced a vintage close to the quality of 2009. We’ve now had three exceptional vintages in a row.” The 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Crus, which are 100% Gamay, are priced within the $10-$20 a 750-ml. range and will roll out in December.

Meanwhile, Duboeuf is looking to expand on its current holdings in France, which include a family property in the Pouilly Fuissé region and the Château des Capitans in Beaujolais (purchased in partnership with the Deutsch family). “We’ve reached maximum capacity. We vinify about 12,000 hectoliters (133,000 cases) at our winery and we’re not interested in extending that,” Duboeuf said, explaining that additional fruit and wine is currently sourced from other growers. He added that a potential vineyard acquisition is now in the works, but declined to provide details. “We are currently studying all the possibilities we have to buy land. There are some opportunities to buy nice domaines, with proper terroir and good size, in Beaujolais.”


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