Visiting master of Morgon, Jean-Marc Burgaud and the genial Frédéric Burrier of Château de Beauregard in his Beaujolais base.
From Château Bonnet we headed back south to Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud. Jean-Marc produces some of the best and most consistent wine in the cru of Morgon but also has plantings in Régnié and bottles a Villages red and a Beaujolais Blanc.
A modern property situated amongst the vines, Domain Burgaud was founded in 1989 and now comprises 19 hectares of vineyard, 13ha of which are in Morgon. Jean-Marc, alerted to our arrival by his barking dog met us and showed us downstairs to his cellar where we were to taste a range of his wines.
Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud is a modern property founded as recently as 1989.
Hail had hit Morgon hard in 2017
Freezing cold, we kept our coats and scarves on for the tasting; the smell of burning vine cuttings wafting through the open door indicating that the winter pruners, hard at work in the vineyards, were probably worse off than us. Bringing down his tasting wines from the warmer kitchen, Jean-Marc explained how the major issue in 2017 was the hail that affected much of Morgon and particularly the top of the Côte de Py. There were two bouts, the first was small but the second at the end of July was ‘terrible’. Of his 8 ha, 4 had experienced 60% damage leading to very low yields and the need for very careful selection of grapes.
The ageing ability of Morgon
We tasted his 2017 Beaujolais-Villages which was fresh, clean and good straight from the tank; next came his 1ha parcel of Régnié and then we went on to the Morgons. After tasting the 2017 and 2016, we began to discuss the ageing potential of Beaujolais. To prove his point that Morgon can age as gracefully as a Burgundy, Jean-Marc pulled out a 2006 Morgon Côte de Py from his cement-shelved bottle store. As it warmed, it revealed a wine that tasted fresh, complex and interesting with a beautiful finish.
We didn’t take much persuading to then try the 1997 and 1992 vintages that Jean-Marc was keen to show. The 1997, regarded as a good vintage was almost menthol on the nose with plenty of tertiary notes from age. The palate was wonderful – alive and complex. 1992 was regarded as a much tougher vintage but was Jean-Marc’s first in the Côte de Py. We tasted the wine from magnum and whilst mature leathery notes dominated, there was still character and distinctive granite notes on the palate.
Jean-Marc was keen to show us just how well Morgon can age and pulled out a 1997 and 1992 Côte de Py from his rack
Before we left, we followed Jean-Marc up the slope in Morgon to see the gnarled and low-trained vines that made these wines.
Chez Frédéric Burrier at his Beaujolais base
Our last stop (after a warming bowl of soup at a cosy bar in Fleurie) was at the new Beaujolais base of Frédéric Burrier and Château de Beauregard. Perhaps better known for his whites produced at the main family property in Pouilly-Fuissé, Frédéric returned to the family business in 1999 after many years at Domaine Jadot. I had previously visited him in Burgundy with a group of Wine Society employees and he is a regular at our Burgundy grower tastings. A friendly, smiling, generous man, Frédéric is a passionate and thoughtful ambassador for both the wines of southern Burgundy and Beaujolais.
Frédéric’s Beaujolais base is in the house of his great-great grandmother and dates back to 1872. He moved in the presses and barrels necessary to produce his red wines here and had newly converted a room for tasting (which we were the first to christen!) Stepping on to the balcony and over Champagne chilling for a staff Christmas party that evening, we could see many of the vines that are used in the elegant Fleurie Poncié. Fleurie also suffered from hail in 2017 and Frédéric demonstrated the cruelty of the phenomenon – pointing out the plot of one grower that was completely destroyed whilst an immediate neighbour escaped entirely.
Discussing the ‘big’ wines of the 2015 vintage, Frédéric feels that some vines are having to adapt to global warming and that winemakers are having to adapt their style to work with them. Producers are picking earlier than ever before and many wines are almost Rhône-like in their depth and alcohol levels.
The vines of Colonies de Rochegrès from the balcony of Beauregard.
Visiting Beaujolais with Tim Sykes, newly in charge of this region, was inspiring and enlightening. The growers here haven’t always had it easy, and there have been and probably will be, some tough times ahead, irrespective of the challenges of global warming.
From my perspective the auditing exercise went extremely well – a text-book case which will be a great benchmark for future visits.
Talking of which, by the time you are reading this, I will have visited key producers in Bordeaux and Alsace and will have planned audits for Spain, the rest of France and Italy. I won’t always be able to tag along with the buyers, of course, but I hope that you’ll see the importance of the exercise to ensure that quality is never compromised when it comes to the wines you love most.