Georges Descombes is a high-end Beaujolais producer, and their (French-)Swedish distributor Caviste just launched some of their 2012s, from three different crus. Last year, I tasted some of the 2011s and wrote about my impressions of them. At the same time, I wrote some words on Beaujolais in general, so it might be worth clicking your way to that entry.
The three 2012s were tasted in order of increasing cellaring ability. The wines had been opened the same morning, and the two Vieilles Vignes were decanted for three hours and then poured back into their bottles.
Nose with cherries, some liquorice, some flowers, a tiny hint of herbal notes. Rather good fruit notes in the nose. Palate with cherries, some blueberries, good and noticeable acidity; shows a combination of freshness and firmness, with a bit of toughness due to the acidity. Comes across as rather young, 87 p?
This is the wine that is least meant for cellaring of the three 2012s. I would still advice to decant it if served this year.
2012 Régnie Vieilles Vignes
Nose of cherries, just a hint of liquorice, rather flowery. Palate with cherries, good concentration, mineral, some tannins, noticeable acidity. Rather noticeable acidity, rather firm, comes across as rather young and could probably develop. 88(+) p?
It’s probably good to give this wine a few years in the cellar. Those that like firm wines could serve it this year, but then it should be given some hours in a decanter. Drink before the Morgon VV.
2012 Morgon Vieilles Vignes
Nose of cherries, some liquorice, a bit of spice, just a hint of herbaceous notes, and a hint of oak. Palate of cherries, good concentration, noticeable acidity, spice, some tannin, and a tannin-dominated aftertaste. Comes across as young, could develop, somewhat difficult to assess right now so I score it a cautious “87+ p?”.
Should definitely be cellared, and should be cellared longer than the Régnie VV. Both the 2011 and the 2010 (also an acid-rich vintage) came across as young, so I’d guess 3-5 years as a suitable time frame to cellar this wine. If a bottle would be forgotten until its 10th birthday in 2022, it wouldn’t really be a problem.
In summary, these 2012s show fine fruity notes in the nose, in some cases together with a hint of herbaceous notes, but has more noticeable acidity than the 2011s. They therefore show a somewhat cooler and more firm style than the 2011s that were a bit more “juicy”. I’d therefore categorise the 2012s as a bit more of a vintage for the cellar than the 2011s. 2012 yielded a small harvest, more like half of a regular harvest in the case of Descombes.
After a discussion with Martin, who runs Caviste, I concluded that 2012 is a vintage where it isn’t possible to generalise across all of France in the same way as 2009, 2010, 2011. Style and quality varies more. Perhaps the most obvious sign is that Bordeaux and Burgundy don’t seem to be in sync – Burgundy is considered to be better. Beaujolais seems to have show a cooler style than the Burgundian heartland further to the north, where 2012 shows rather high ripeness. Something the two regions seem to share, though, is a small 2012 harvest.
The style of Descombes is definitely “serious”. Today, many Beaujolais crus (meaning those with a specific village name indicated, such as Morgon) are definitely serious in terms of fruit concentration, aromas and a more or less “Burgundian” character, and free from the Beaujolais Noveau-like notes of candy flavoring. However, many of the Beaujolais producers that have become popular in recent years produce wine in a style where the youngest vintage is quite drinkable. The wines of Georges Descombes are more suited for cellaring, at least the Vieilles Vignes wines.
Some 2011s and a 2010 from Descombes
As a reference, we got to taste some wines from 2011 and 2010, none of which were of sale right now. (Two of them I tasted last year.)
2011 Morgon (the young vine version, not Vieilles Vignes)
Nose with blueberries, ripe cherries, notes of dark berries, smoke, slightly herbaceous. Juicy palate with cherries, some blueberries, good acidity, some mineral. Fresh style with some structure, can be consumed now, but could also be cellared for a number of years. 88 p. (I notice that I scored it 87 p last year and perceived the fruit notes as a bit more on the red side, i.e., less dark than this time.)
2011 Morgon Vieilles Vignes
Smoky nose with some animal notes, cherries, and liquorice. Here we also find notes that give a clearly Burgundian impression with “Pinosity” and complexity. Juicy palate with cherries, some tannins, noticeable minerality and good acidity. Rather young, could develop more, 89(+) p.
Here, the difference between the wine produced from young vines and the one produced from older vines plus oak was quite noticeable, despite the same appellation (Morgon) and the same vintage. If the 2012 will develop the same Pinosity with cellaring, there’s a potential upside to the score.
2011 Régnie Vieilles Vignes
Nose with cherries, some animal notes, slightly flowery, some liquorice, and slightly smoky. A certain similarity to the 2011 Morgon VV, because here we also find Burgundian vibes. Juicy palate with mineral, cherries, good acidity, some tannins, and a noticeable minerality in the aftertaste. Rather young, 89(+) p. (Last year I also noted the minerality and scored it 89 (+) p.)
This Régnie VV comes across as in a bit less need of cellaring than the Morgon VV, just as was the case with the 2012s.
2010 Morgon Vieilles Vignes
Nose with cherries and red berries, some meat juice and other animal notes, mineral, some developed character. Palate with cherries, red berries, noticeable acidity, mineral, and some tannin. Still rather young, 88(+) p.
Comes across as more firm and less juicy than the 2011s. Although there are noticeable developed notes in the nose, I’d say that 2010 should be cellared longer than the 2011s, when the acidity is factored in.
Some final words on the bottles and labels of Descombes. The labels with some red lettering and a bit of “writing style” to the text, are found on the bottles produced from younger vines, and they are basically steel tank wines with no oak. The black-and-white lables with more regular print letters, are found on wines produced from older vines, vieilles vignes, and they are raised in oak. This fact can be confirmed by turning the bottle and inspecting the back label. The back label is absent from the young vine versions. In previous vintages, I’ve also seen an oval label, and that label also signifies older vines. The vieilles vignes bottles are sometimes found with a wax capsule, and sometimes with a regular foil, but this different doesn’t really mean anything in terms of wine quality.