I’m often asked what I think the best European wine value is, and these days, my answer is almost always Cru Beaujolais. Ask many wine professionals and you’ll get the same response because wines like today’s superb Morgon deliver so much pleasure—and real complexity— for the price.
Domaine Les Gryphées, run by father-son duo Pierre and Guillaume Durdilly, makes the case emphatically: This 2018 Morgon has fruit, earth, tension, character, class…the whole red Burgundy package for just $25. It’s amazing. Beaujolais growers were treated to a remarkably healthy crop in 2018, with above-average yields from a season that produced no weather-related surprises, and I have yet to sample a Cru Beaujolais from 2018 that isn’t exuberantly delicious. Writing for Vinous, Josh Raynolds found the best wines of the vintage “fruit-forward, seamless, juicy and [in the] low-tannin camp, showing very good concentration as well as energy and, surprisingly, sharp delineation.” I find tremendous freshness and vibrancy in today’s ’18, which for me is a hallmark of classic Cru Beaujolais. The village of Morgon harbors a cache of older vines grown on granite and schist, and this example from the Durdillys oozes classic Morgon character. The quality-to-price ratio is blindingly bright: to spend $25 or $30 on a bottle of wine that is always delicious? I hope that never goes away. I can assure you, however, that our allocation of this wine will go away, and quickly, so don’t miss out!
I want to drive home the point about Beaujolais being part of Burgundy because, so often on SommSelect, we strive to present Beaujolais wines that bear a structural resemblance to Burgundy from the more-famous Cote d’Or. When you consider the price differences, it’s simply mind-blowing to find such high quality so consistently—and I’d put the wines of Morgon in particular at the top of the list. I’m constantly tasting inexpensive Cru Beaujolais wines aged a decade or more and thinking they could go even longer. Some bottles deserve to be held for 25-35 years, like those from great producers such as Marcel Lapierre and Jean-Paul Thévenet, because they develop mind-blowing complexity.
So it goes with exceptional bottles from Morgon, and its neighbor, Fleurie, as well. I find that no matter the vintage variation, from year to year these two Beaujolais Crus are at the heart of the best wines being produced. The top vineyard sites within Morgon are among the “Grand Crus” of Beaujolais, and when you find old vines above the town of Morgon, coming close to Fleurie, you’re likely to find the greatest expressions of Gamay—period.
The Durdillys are among those longtime growers making world-class Cru Beaujolais. Their roots are in the hamlet of Le Bois d’Oignt, where the family patriarch, Paul Durdilly, tends 40-80-year-old vines that turn out intense yet delicate Gamay wines—wines that often resemble great Chambolle-Musigny Pinot Noir from the Côte de Nuits. Paul’s son, Pierre, founded his own Domaine Les Gryphées with his son, Guillaume, and together they farm 60-year-old estate vineyards planted in the rose-colored granite soils that are unique to Morgon, along with a mix of clay and schist soils at 1,050 feet in elevation. Grapes are always hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Aging is done in larger, old foudre, and the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Their resulting Morgon is a high-toned, perfumed, elegant wine with the kind of power that has a lot more in common with great red Burgundy, but matures earlier, and allows for incredible drinking the first 1-3 years out the gate. It will age much longer.
The 2018 Domaine Les Gryphées presents a dark ruby core with bright pink hues and leaps out of the glass with super lifted fruit aromas. Out of the bottle, it’s beautiful and ready to drink, but a 20-30 minute decant will allow the aromatics to blossom. There’s almost a damp bark meets perfectly harvested strawberries, like putting your nose in a bowl of fresh strawberries at a farmer’s market—not jam or smoothie, just perfect aromatics with accents of pomegranate, damp leaves, and underbrush against rose petals and violets and high-toned purple flowers. On the palate, the wine is dry, with a medium-plus body that swells with a beautiful kiss of sweetness from strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, meeting delicate rose petal, a crushed mineral quality like wet granite, and wet rock. This is a young brilliant Morgon that will see its best drinking window beginning over the next 1-4 years. Next winter, this wine is really going to start firing on all cylinders. Pair it with classic roast chicken and potatoes, duck rillettes, or lamb burgers.
Large, Neutral 'Foudre'