Jean-Paul et Charly Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2019
A nose of cherries, pomegranates, and hothouse flowers coupled with a deep stoniness and a lively finish make it the quintessential Morgon.
Jean-Paul Thévenet is the third generation to produce wine at his family estate in Morgon, but as a young man he took the domaine in an unexpected direction. In the early 1980s Beaujolais was flooded with mass-produced, over-commercialized wine, pushing winemaker and viticultural prophet Jules Chauvet to invoke a return to more traditional practices. Jean-Paul and three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, and Jean Foillard, soon took up the torch of this “natural wine” movement. Kermit dubbed this clan the Gang of Four, and the name has stuck ever since. These rebels called for a return to the old practices of viticulture and vinification: starting with old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or none at all, and refusing both chaptalization and filtration. These techniques allow the character of Morgon to express itself naturally, without any cosmetic surgery: rustic and spicy yet also refreshing and loaded with the minerality of the granitic vineyards.
Known as “Paul-Po” among friends, Jean-Paul is reserved yet fun-loving. He farms his small five-hectare domaine with his son, Charly, who also makes his own wine from the neighboring Grand Cru Régnié. Charly is a staunch advocate of natural wine just like his father, and since 2008 the two have taken the domaine to the next level by adopting organic and biodynamic viticultural practices. While the rest of the Gang works the Parisian market, hand-selling their wines, Jean-Paul maintains a low profile. Producing only 2,000 cases per year, he simply focuses on creating the best wines possible, and we are always eager to buy as many cases as he can spare!
The bucolic region often identified as the southern part of Burgundy, Beaujolais actually doesn’t have a whole lot in common with the rest of the region in terms of climate, soil types and grape varieties. Beaujolais achieves its own identity with variations on style of one grape, Gamay.
Gamay was actually grown throughout all of Burgundy until 1395 when the Duke of Burgundy banished it south, making room for Pinot Noir to inhabit all of the “superior” hillsides of Burgundy proper. This was good news for Gamay as it produces a much better wine in the granitic soils of Beaujolais, compared with the limestone escarpments of the Côte d’Or.
Four styles of Beaujolais wines exist though most is sold under the basic Beaujolais appellation. The simplest, and one that has regrettably given the region a subpar reputation, is Beaujolais Nouveau. This is the Beaujolais wine that is made using carbonic maceration (a quick fermentation that results in sweet aromas) and is released on the third Thursday of November in the same year as harvest. It's meant to drink young and is flirty, fruity and fun. The rest of Beaujolais is where the serious wines are found. Beaujolais-Villages, which must come from the hilly northern part of the region, offer reasonable values with some gems among them. The superior section are the cru vineyards coming from ten distinct communes: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Any cru Beajolais will have its commune name prominent on the label.
Delightfully playful, but also capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines. From Beaujolais, Gamay generally has three classes: Beaujolais Nouveau, a decidedly young, fruit-driven wine, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais. The Villages and Crus are highly ranked grape growing communes whose wines are capable of improving with age whereas Nouveau, released two months after harvest, is intended for immediate consumption. Somm Secret—The ten different Crus have their own distinct personalities—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is structured and age-worthy.