Georges Descombes is a high-end Beaujolais producer with vineyards in several different Beaujolais crus. I recently tried three 2011s presented by a Swedish distributor, Caviste, at a larger wine-tasting event where eight quality-oriented importers showed some of their range.
This might be a good occasion for a reminder of how the Beaujolais district is divided into appellations. Although Beaujolais is a part of Burgundy, the classification follows the same pattern as that of Rhône. There is a rather all-encompassing basic appellation called Beaujolais, a slightly more selective appellation called Beaujolais-Villages and then ten Beaujolais cru, named after villages etcetera: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. You can consider these similar to the village appellations in the rest of Burgundy, but in difference from most of the rest of Burgyndy (Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Chablis), there are no smaller areas with premier cru or grand cru classification in Beaujolais. Naturally, there are vineyards which are better than the average here as in all other wine-growing areas, and therefore some producers will display a vinyeard name on their labels, and not just the appellation of the wine.
These ten crus are all found in the northern part of Beaujolais, so only a smaller part of the district are allowed to use a Beaujolais cru appellation. The “new generation” of Beaujolais wines – more serious but at the same time often very drinkable – are primarily cru wines. This is perhaps not all that surprising, since the crus are supposed to represent the best part of Beaujolais. The Noveau wines are mostly produced in the basic Beaujolais appellation and from grapes purchased from growers who get very lousy pay for their produce. (Folks, don’t buy a Beaujolais vineyard, in particular a non-cru one, if you plan to get rich by selling grapes or producing wine!) The different crus are supposed to be of different style, but in similarity to the rest of Burgundy, the name of the producer will say more about the wine than just the village or appellation name. Descombes produces wines from several crus.
From younger vineyards.
Nose with ripe red berries, some herbs. Good concentration of fruit on the palate, red berries (red currants?), good acidity, a little bit of tannin, fresh aftertaste. Rather light but good and in a fresh style. 87 p.
Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2011
Nose with cherries, red and dark berries, spice, some herbs, tar. Palate with red berries, juicy, some tannin, high acidity. Fresh and acid-dominated aftertaste. Accessible and fresh style. 88 p.
Darker notes and more powerful than the Morgon.
Régnié Vieilles Vignes 2011
Nose with ripe red berries, some dark berries, spice, some herbs, some tar. Palate with mineral, red berries, high acidity, medium tannin. Aftertaste with mineral. Rather young, but accessible. 89 (+) p.
Of the three wines, Régnié is definitely the one which is in a style suitable for cellaring, and in my opinion also the most elegant. Brouilly does have darker fruit, but Régnié possesses more tannin and structure. Both Morgon and Brouilly are excellent to drink now, if you wish. As to the 2011 vintage, I’d say that I have the same impression as for French reds from some other regions: rather fruity and accessible wines, where most are suitable to drink young.
These were three out of rather many wines who were sniffed and slurped during the course of a couple of hours, so the usual caveats apply as to the reliability of detailed impression and scoring, compared to when sitting down in peace and quiet with just a few wines.
Here is a rather extensive blog post about another blogger’s visit at Georges Descombes in 2010.
Swedish version of the post here.