Meet the Winemaker: One on One With Morgon and Pouilly-Fuissé Vintners
Talking to the people who make magic is always an experience (yes, I’m comparing winemaking to the magic). I met the winemakers a number of times, but for the most of the cases, they were “in between” of some other important tasks (like harvest, for instance), so the idea of inundating them with questions never crossed my mind.
This time around it was a different experience – the winemakers where actually there to talk to me (feel special and scared at the same time), so I could (and rather was supposed to) to ask a lot of questions.
I met with two winemaking couples – Robert and Jeanine Béranger from Pouilly-Fuissé and Nicole and Pierre Descombes-Savoye from Morgon, both closely working with Georges Duboeuf, the famous French negociant, whose portfolio consists of about 400 different wines, mostly from Beaujolais (I met Georges and Frank Duboeuf a few years back, here is my post talking about it).
So I had an opportunity to ask the questions and then to taste the wines (each family produces only one wine!). Here are my questions with the answers (side note: really despise myself for thinking for the past 10-12 years “must learn French, must learn French” – and really not doing anything about it… The interview was done with the help of Heloise Pepin, brand ambassador for Georges Duboeuf wines).
Of course we started with the white wine, so my questions were directed first at Robert and Jeanine Béranger, whose family produces Domaine Béranger Pouilly-Fuissé wine for more than 200 years. The Domaine Béranger includes about 12 acres of Chardonnay, the only grape used in production of Pouilly-Fuissé wines. The vines at the domaine on average are 55 years old. All the harvesting is done by hand (you typically want to preserve clusters when harvesting the Chardonnay, this is why hand is the best instrument to use). Those 12 acres are split into 32 (!) different parcels, which are vinified separately and blended for the final release. Total production at the Domaine is about 26,000 bottles a year.
For what it worth, here are the questions I asked, together with the answers.
Q: What was most favorite vintage of your wines?
A: 1983 and 2003. 2003 was particularly interesting, as it was a very difficult vintage, and making of the wine was very challenging. 1976 was the exceptional year for the white wines.
Q: What was the oldest wine from your vineyards which you ever tasted?
Q: For how long your wines can age?
A: In the exceptional vintage, the wines can easily age for 30 years, but generally they age well for about 15 years.
Q: When you are not drinking Pouilly-Fuissé wine, what are the other wines you like to drink?
A: Meursault, Chablis, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Next we tasted the wine, and here are my tasting notes.
2011 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (13% ABV, retail at about $26, 10% of the wine aged in 5 different types of oak barrels, then 14 month in the bottle before release) – pale yellow color in the glass. Hint of apples on the nose. On the palate there is a touch of butter, plump and creamy feeling. The wine is very round, roll-of-your-tongue, perfect acidity and perfect balance. A beautiful wine. Drinkability: 8+
Time to talk about the red wine, Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes from Morgon, so I directed my questions at Nicole and Pierre Descombes-Savoye. Domaine’s property includes 30 acres of the vineyards, all planted with Gamay grape, with three quarters of the vines been more than 50 years old. On average, the yearly production is 100,000 bottles. The grapes are harvested by hand to preserve the full clusters.
Here are some of my questions, along the same lines as the questions above.
Q. What was your favorite vintage of your wine?
A. 1973, as this was the year when our son was born.
Q. And how was that 1973 wine?
A. The wines were opened recently at the big party, and they were put against the 1973 Vosne-Romanée in the format of the blind tasting. Most of the guests at the party preferred the 1973 Morgon over the 1973 Vosne-Romanée. It is also interesting to note that as Gamay wine is aging, the freshness of Gamay grape is evolving into the complexity of Pinot Noir, so the results of the tasting are not surprising.
Q. For how long Morgon wines can last?
A. In the good vintage, the wines can easily last for 40 years or even longer.
Q. What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
A. Burgundy and Bordeaux, especially the Saint-Émilion had been the favorite as of late. But we also like California wine.
Q: How would you compare the 2011 vintage with 2009?
A: Well, the vintage such as 2009, simply can’t happen again ( I’m sure mother nature has its own view on that), it was simply exceptional – and it is literally impossible to beat the 2009 vintage. But 2011 was a good year, and the wines from 2011 will easily last for 10-12 years or longer.
2011 Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon AOC (12.9% ABV, aged for 6-8 month in cement tanks, $16.99 suggested retail) had bright ruby color in the glass. On the nose, the aroma of raspberries and cherries. Perfectly fresh on the palate, with more raspberry notes, clean, simple, with invigorating acidity and good balance. Drinkability: 8-
And that concludes my first sit down interview with the winemakers. It was fun, and I hope to be able to do more in the future. Cheers!