Thursday, August 4, 2016

Visit and Tasting at Domaine Georges Descombes in Vermont, Villié­-Morgon, Beaujolais - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours

Picture:  Visit and Tasting at Domaine Georges Descombes in Vermont, Villié­-Morgon, Beaujolais - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours

On the Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours, we visited one Beaujolais producer, Domaine Georges Descombes in Vermont, Villié­-Morgon. Madame Descombes was our host. She showed us around and then led a most entertaining tasting.

Pictures: Arriving at Domaines Georges Descombes

Since 1988 Georges Descombes makes his own wine in the tiny village of Vermont, in the Morgon appellation. He is part of what could be considered Beaujolais' second­wave of natural winemakers, and he is certified “organic” by ECOCERT. His production is two­tiered, the domaine wines deriving from his own 15.5 ha of vines in the five AOCs: Morgon, Brouilly, Regnié, Chiroubles, and Beaujolais Villages, and the négoçiant wines, a separate range he makes from purchased fruit.

Descombes is also the patriarch of what has in recent years become a whole winemaking clan in the hamlet of Vermont. The Descombes complex houses Damien Coquelet, Georges' step­son who produces excellent Chiroubles and Morgon, and Kevin Descombes, Georges' son who began vinifying his own Morgon and Beaujolais just a couple years ago.

Pictures: Welcome


The wines of the Beaujolais region have at least 2 faces: The basic stuff that is served in the Brasseries and Bistros of Paris, Lyon and elsewhere and the new generation of ultra-premium cru wines, such as those of Domaine Georges Descombes.

Beaujolais Today and 20 Years Ago

“Beaujolais today is what Rheinhessen was 20 years ago” said German winemaker Peter Weritz at a recent Beaujolais tasting, “a region with a bad reputation as a result of the Beaujolais Nouveau, but with quite a number of innovative and dynamic winemakers who are in the process of propelling the region to the forefront of winemaking”. Billy Wagner, Sommelier/Owner at the trendy and 1 Star Michelin Restaurant Nobelhart und Schmutzig in Berlin said: “Well, the Beaujolais has already gone quite a distance, as there are a number of young wine makers producing wines of the highest level already today”.

Pictures: In the Vineyard

Coming back to the basics: Beaujolais is a French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine generally made of the Gamay grape (accounting for nearly 98% of all plantings). Administratively, Beaujolais is part of the Bourgogne, but the winemakers up north prefer to present their wine region excluding Beaujolais.

In the 1980s, Beaujolais hit a peak of popularity in the world's wine market with its Beaujolais nouveau wine. An eventual backlash occurred in the late 1990s, when the whole of Beaujolais wine had developed a negative reputation among consumers who associated Gamay based wines with simple light bodied wines that characterized Beaujolais Nouveau. In response, there has been renewed emphasis on the production of more complex wines that are aged longer in oak barrels prior to release.

Beaujolais is a large wine producing region, totaling over 20,000 hectares. The soils of Beaujolais divide the region into a northern and southern half, with the town of Villefranche serving as a near dividing point. The northern half of Beaujolais, where most of the Cru Beaujolais communes are located, includes rolling hills of schist and granite based soils with some limestone. The southern half of the region, also known as the Bas Beaujolais, has more flatter terrain with richer, sandstone and clay based soils with some limestone patches.

There are twelve main appellations of Beaujolais wines covering the production of more than 96 villages in the Beaujolais region. They were originally established in 1936, with additional crus being promoted in 1938 and 1946, plus Régnié in 1988.

Pictures: In the Cellar

About half of all Beaujolais wine is sold under the basic Beaujolais AOC designation. The majority of this wine is produced in the southern Bas Beaujolais region located around the town of Belleville. The only difference between basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Supérieur is this slight increase in alcohol.

Beaujolais-Villages AOC, the intermediate category in terms of classification, covers 39 communes/villages in the Haut Beaujolais, the northern part of the region accounting for a quarter of production.

Several of the communes in the Beaujolais-Villages AOC also qualify to produce their wines under the Mâconnais and Saint-Véran AOCs. The Beaujolais producers that produce a red wine under the Beaujolais-Villages appellation will often produce their white wine under the more internationally recognized names of Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.

Cru Beaujolais, the highest category of classification in Beaujolais, account for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Unlike Burgundy and Alsace, the phrase cru in Beaujolais refers to an entire wine producing area rather than an individual vineyard.

From north to south the Beaujolais crus are - Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.

Pictures: In the Cellar

Beaujolais is made by the winemaking technique of semi-carbonic maceration. Whole bunches of grapes are put directly into covered fermentation tanks. The weight of the grapes on top crushes the grapes underneath, which begin to ferment with ambient yeasts. This releases carbon dioxide gas, which remains trapped in the tank and sets off a different, intracellular fermentation in the grapes on top. After a week or so, the grapes are removed from the tank and the fermentation is completed in the conventional way, typically including a malolactic fermentation to soften the wine. Historically, chaptalization has been widespread in the Beaujolais.

The Beaujolais wine industry is dominated by the more than 30 négociants who produce nearly 90% of the wine sold outside the Beaujolais region. There are more than 4000 vineyard owners in Beaujolais and most of the wine that is not sold to the négociants is bottled by the nearly 20 village co-operatives.

Georges Descombes

In the USA, the wines of Georges Descombes are represented by David Bowler in New York: Georges Descombes, not to be confused with Jean Descombes, a grower who sells his entire production to Georges Duboeuf, is a totally separate estate which Georges took over in 1988 with a ½ hectare from his father.

Georges currently has between 15 and 16 hectares of vineyards spread across a variety of cru: 3.5 hectares of Brouilly (on some of the steepest slopes in Beaujolais), 7.5 hectares of Morgon, 2 hectares of Regnié, 0.5 hectare of Chiroubles, 2 hectares of Beaujolais Villages and 1.5 hectare of generic Beaujolais.

Descombes vinifies with an extreme cold carbonic maceration that takes up to 30 days. The wine is raised in relatively new barrels without using sulphur, except at bottling time, a style of wine which Descombes prefers drinking.

Descombes tasted with Marcel Lapierre when he first started out and found Lapierre’s Morgons a model of lushness, purity and pleasure – he decided on the spot to work in a similar style. What is different at Descombes is the lengthy aging of the wines. The wines often go through a year of raising and are then held back in bottle.



Thanks for the visit and the great tasting!

Pictures: Bye-bye

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Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History

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