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Glou trade tasting with Guy Breton

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In 1987, working as a mechanic and encouraged by his friend Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton took over the family estate, founded in 1935, from his grandfather. At the time, the estate sold all its grapes to local cooperatives that churned out soulless industrial wines, in particular faddish Beaujolais nouveau. Joining with Lapierre, Jean Foillard and Jean-Paul Thévenet, the so-called Gang of Four, he decided not only to start making his own wines but to do so as naturally as possible.

The principles are simple. The grapes come from old vines and are harvested late. Synthetic pesticides and herbicides are avoided (the only chemicals used in the vineyard – and then lightly and on an as-needed basis – are sulphur against oidium and copper against mildew). Sorting is rigorous. Fermentation is spontaneous, using indigenous yeasts. Chaptalization is banned. Sulphur dioxide is used minimally if at all. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Breton markets five wines: Marylou, a Beaujolais-Villages named after his daughter; a generic Morgon; a Morgon Vieilles Vignes; P’tit Max, a Morgon from very old vines; and the most recent addition to the lineup, a Régnié. All are made using carbonic maceration, the length of which depends on the wine and the year, pressed in an old wooden vertical press and matured either in epoxy tanks or, for the old-vine cuvées, in used Burgundy barrels. A minute amount of sulphur dioxide is added at bottling.

Once again, I was struck by the resemblence of the wines to the winemaker. Honest, approachable, down-to-earth, easy to get along with. I’d gone to the tasting thinking I’d stay for an hour and ended up spending more than three. The wines – especially the Vieilles vignes, which got better with every sip – were part of the reason, of course, but so was the company.

Morgon 2010, Guy Breton ($26.45, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 35-year-old vines. 12.5% ABV.
Lean and supple. The fruit is ripe but this is as savoury as fruity, with underlying minerals and black pepper overtones. Smooth acidity and good length. (Buy? Sure.)

Régnié 2011, Guy Breton ($30.15, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay, half from 100-year-old vines, half from 35-year-old vines. Spent five months in barrels. 12% ABV.
Fresh and pure with a hint of spice. Burgundy-like texture. Silky fruit, perfectly dosed acidity and a light but tight grip. The finish is long and slatey. Straightforward and elegant; if Beaujolais crus were clothes, this would be a simple black dress and a string of pearls. (Buy? Yes.)

Morgon 2011, Vieilles vignes, Guy Breton ($78.50/1500 ml, Glou, 6 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from vines averaging 80 years old. Spent seven months in barrels. 12.7% ABV.
Grapey, rich, floral note. Richer, fleshier, more masculine. The fruit is ripe but not sweet, deep-rooted in earth and slate and balanced by glowing acidity. Long. So drinkable. Breton says this is more ageable than the 2010. Absolutely classic Morgon if less tannic than some. (Buy? A must for Beaujolais lovers.)

Morgon 2011, P’tit Max, Guy Breton ($36.05, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
Don’t let the petit fool you: this is Breton’s most serious cuvée, the one that bears his nickname (his dad was Max, so everyone calls him petit Max). The early vintages were denied AOC status. 100% Gamay from century-old vines. Spent 12 months in barrels. 12.5% ABV.
Rich and deep but not very expressive nose with a bit of élèvage showing. The densest and, for now, least giving of the quartet. Liqueurish core of fruit against a backdrop of herbs and slate. Bright acidity. Long, minerally finish. (Buy? To lay down for a decade.)

Written by carswell

June 14, 2013 at 09:44

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