Even though they are only separated by about 50 miles in eastern France, the production zones of Beaujolais and Savoie are quite different. The sandy clay soils over granite of Beaujolais allow the Gamay grape to find its truest expression, while the alpine patchwork of vineyards in Savoie encompass more than twenty Crus and account for over a dozen significant grape varieties. If there is any one Savoie variety and expression that can be compared to Beaujolais it is the dark-skinned Mondeuse. Indeed, Savoie Mondeuse is often produced much like a light and fruity Beaujolais yet can also be made for medium-term aging comparable to the most ambitious of Cru Beaujolais.
This Saturday’s tasting is an example of the highest level production methods in both areas. We’ll be comparing wines from two of the top producers in their respective appellations, both disciples of traditionalist Jules Chauvet, both returning to the old practices of viticulture and vinification: 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.
$27 Guy Breton “Vieilles Vignes” (Morgon 2014)
Representing Beaujolais is Guy Breton. Guy makes wines as a reflection of his character – honest, affable, and down-to-earth. He took over the tiny family domaine of just over seven acres from his grandfather in 1986. Until that point, the family was selling their fruit to the large cooperative wineries which dominated the region.
Guy’s principal wine, the Morgon “Vieilles Vignes,” is sourced from 2.5 acres of 80 year old vines in the Saint Joseph and Grand Cras subzones of the appellation, which give fine, stony wines. A high-lying sandy parcel contributes more complexity, structure, and acidity to the blend. After fermentation, the wine is aged on fine lees in Burgundian barrels (of at least the third passage).
~$29 Domaine Jean-Pierre & Jean-François Quénard “Elisa” Mondeuse (Savoie 2014)
Representing Savoie is Jean-François Quénard. Viticulture in Savoie is pure opportunism, only two percent of the region’s agricultural lands are occupied with vines. As such, production is small and generally consumed by locals and the tourists that flock to the region for hiking and skiing. It’s in the cru of Chignin – part of the crescent-shaped stretch of limestone scree known as the Combe de Savoie that is known to produce the greatest Savoie wines – where Jean-François is doing his life’s work. He owns 37 acres of vineyards around the village of Chignin and took over winemaking from his father in 1987 after studying winemaking in Burgundy, Gigondas, Bordeaux, and California.
Cuvée “Elisa” is named after Jean-François’s fourth daughter and it is classic Mondeuse, blackish-purple and laden with juicy wild berries. Old vines give the wine concentration while vinification for 18 months in barrel provides depth.
All prices are based on the purchase of six or more bottles. (Mix & Match)