Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes Morgon Javernières 2005
The French verb morgonner is an informally-coined term that refers to the process by
which a bottle-aged Gamay-based Beaujolais comes to resemble a Pinot Noir from Burgundy
proper. The judgment is meant to be a compliment. Morgon is one of the Beaujolais Crus,
those ten northernmost villages in Beaujolais thought to produce the most distinctive wines.
Morgon, the only Cru with its own verb, has many fans who consider it a cut above the other
nine, the true Connoisseur's Cru.
The 2005 Morgon from seventh generation winemaker Louis Claude Desvignes has not yet had time to prove itself in the bottle-aging department, but it is awfully good wine. Desvignes (and can such a name be coincidental?) sources the $17 wine from the Côte de Py, the slope most often associated with distinctive Morgon wines. His Javernières climat on the southern slope of the Côte supports vines that may be 65 years old, in soil of clay and ferric oxide on a base of granite. The wines that result are dense, more tannic than most other Beaujolais, and yet still redolent of the friendly Gamay grape.
A deep Gamay purple with purple edges, the wine gave me black cherry on the nose as well as plum, rose, violet, smoky herb and dirt. “Aha,” you think, “that dirt is surely a touch of Burgundy to the north,” but no, this is not the stinky dirt of the Côte d'Or, but a tough and rocky, self-defining granite dirt. No snails, no worms, no…I'll stop here. To be complete, I must add that I felt significant alcoholic heat on the nose, but it did not survive to the palate.
In the mouth the wine is full bodied, with polished tannins. The acidity chirps in when it needs to. Red fruit leads: plum, cherry, sour cherry and something deeper—half of me reaches for cassis, the other half likes pomegranate—though all these fruits are well melded with abiding notes of violet, rosemary, and lavender. The finish is long, multi-faceted, and quite a serious affair.
Gamay was once widely grown in Burgundy proper, perhaps the reason the better Beaujolais
are so often compared to Pinot Noir. But chromosomes don't lie; these are different grapes;
the soils are also dissimilar, as is, for that matter, the climate. Factor in the people, who most
certainly differ, and you have a first-class French red wine that confounds all comparison.
Morgon is Morgon.
Verdict: Top of the hill
Multigenerational winemakers shoulder such heritage they cannot help but explore every avenue to excellence at their disposal, modern equipment and methods included.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman