From €11.50, £14.95
It's high time a fine beaujolais occupied this slot, and what better time of year than the day after the Thursday when Beaujolais Nouveau was released in the old days when this youthful ferment was all the rage?
Thanks to Noble Rot wine bar and restaurant, I have actually tasted a rather nice 2016 beaujolais made by Le Grappin as well as sampling a few recent vintages and quizzing no less a producer than Jean-Louis Dutraive of Grand'Cour about them. 2016 was very fruity but tiny. 2015, plagued by drought, was ripe, plump and exceptionally concentrated and therefore easy to drink but a bit atypical. 2014 was very fruity, fresh and is generally viewed as the vintage for classicist enthusiasts of Beaujolais, arguably France's best-value red wine region. (See Save your pennies and, for a further comparison of these two vintages, Beaujolais 2015 - a worthy successor to 2014.)
By coincidence, Julia, Richard and I have all, separately, tasted Ch de Durette, Hommage 2014 Morgon over the last year and all of us were impressed – me especially when I tasted it recently and reckon it is really starting to come out of its shell.
Morgon, with Moulin-à-Vent, produces the longest-lived wines of the famous Beaujolais crus, or notable communes. This wine is light years in style from the evanescent, accelerated, pale wines associated with Beaujolais Nouveau. It is a fine representative of new-wave (actually traditional) beaujolais whereby ambitious young wine producers are now making reds every bit as serious as some red burgundies, but at a fraction of the price. I would expect this example to continue to improve over the next seven years or so – not bad for a wine selling at such a low price – but it is already showing beautiful texture and accessibility with tension and excitement together with fully ripe, luscious, zesty Gamay fruit informed by the granite and schist on which the 40- to 80-year-old vines, from the oldest areas in Corcelette and Côte de Py, were grown.
As is increasingly common in the Côte d'Or today, no sulfur was added when the grapes, hand-picked and hand-sorted, arrived at the winery. Relatively unusually for Beaujolais, 80% of them were destemmed. They were macerated for 11 to 12 days and there was some pigeage towards the end of fermentation. The wine was bottled, having seen concrete and stainless steel but no oak, at the end of March 2015.
Ch de Durette was established by Jean Joly of Liège in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium that recently nearly scuppered Canada's trade deal with the EU. The story goes that he fell in love with Beaujolais on a romantic honeymoon in St-Amour in 1964. In 2006 he sealed the love affair by buying the rather grand house in the village of Régnié-Durette shown here, coincidentally locally associated with sheltering Belgian refugees during the First World War. He named it Ch de Durette and soon renovated a nearby winery and began to acquire vineyards.
Since then various Wallonian friends have been persuaded to buy vineyards round about so that Ch de Durette now has access to 30 ha (75 acres) of vines. Since 2009 the wines have been made by Wallonian Marc Theissen and have been increasingly well received.
They now make 20 different wines, including three sparkling wines, and Hommage Morgon is part of what they call their 'Luxury' range. They are clearly innovative since they now make several Chardonnays and have planted some Sauvignon Blanc. This Hommage bottling is so-named as a tribute to Joly, who died in 2014.
At the moment Wine-searcher finds stockists of this deliciously pacy-but-sumptuous Morgon only in France, Belgium and the UK, where it is one of the ready-to-drink wines on offer from The Vintner of London SW6, a company founded by Tom Gilbey six years ago to offer just 100 hand-picked wines at a time. He and wine buyer Gavin Smith update the collection every six months.
You can find more information about stockists, strangely concentrated in Belgium, here on the Ch de Durette website. According to Marc Theissen, current importers include The Wine Store in Luxembourg and Legend World Wines in China.