Off to the Morgon region of Beaujolais, France we go…

Morgon Wines: Think in adjective sizes, for a moment: delicate, moderate, and robust. Beaujolais wines, coming from specific regions, are classified in this way, due to their terroir influences. It helps to know this, if you’re wanting to purchase a Beaujolais, for a food and wine adventure. You can easily pair the right wine weight, with the substance of the food’s intensity, if you know each region’s characteristics. Know your Beaujolais’ and you’ll have a well-balanced food and wine pairing. (Think food science…)

The Morgon Jean Ernest Descombes wines:

These well-balanced wines from the 2009, 2015, 2017, and 2018 vintages had one consistent thread running through them: Harmonious flavor notes in balance with their aromatics…

The nose on each reminded me of the Rose Hip teas I’ve loved over the ages. The range from 2009, which exhibited the softer side of violets, to the 2015’s pluminess, the 2017’s cherry notes, and the 2018’s black currents demonstrated for me, how the aging of these wines make them more delicate as the tannins dissipate. Morgon is known for producing Beaujolais wines with flavors from violets, to plums, to black currants. The full range was there in their aging process.

Quoting from Georges Duboeuf’s biography Beaujolais, A Shared Passion, as taught to him, by his friend Léon Fuillard, p. 43, with some additional clarity from Jo Diaz in brackets:

  1. Wines that are delicate come from the following locations, and are released in March:
    • In the tender wine regions (referred to as a region that makes the most delicate wines), such Saint-Etienne, Durette, Saint-Lager, and Fleurie, these wines are very bright and tasty.
    • [Fresh and vibrant, with lemon, strawberry flavors, along with being delicately floral – description added by Jo Diaz.]
  2. Beaujolais that are medium bodied, are released from March to July, from the Crus, and are firmer wines:
    • A bit richer, coming from regions with a little more intensity: Odenas, Romaneche-Thorins, Chiroubles, Chénas, and Brouilly.
    • [A bit more rustic and spice, with more violet and cherry flavors – description added by Jo Diaz.]
  3. Lastly, after the summer, are the heavier bodied wines, and are released from higher elevation vineyards:
    • Beaujeu, Quincié, Lantigne, Jullie, Juliénas, and Morgon.
    • [The most flavorful, tannic (which means longer aging potential). Since higher elevation wines don’t have as much ground water available that the lower lying vineyards do, the flavors are more concentrated ~ think Maine blueberries, and rich plums – description added by Jo Diaz.]


[Wine Folly’s map: Magnum Edition of the Master Guide, by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack.]

As I reflect on my 2019 Summer Visit Romanof Beaujolais, I continue to make much more sense of what I’ve experienced and learned.

[PHOTO: About to be welcomed by Jean Descombes]

My 2019 visit with Les Vins Georges Duboeuf: when I visited with Nicole Descombes Savoie, owner of the Morgon Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes winery, in the heart of the Morgon region of Beaujolais, I tasted and learned how seductively robust Gamay wines can be.

The Morgon region of Beaujolais “delivers the goods,” as they say. In their full-bodied Romanesque style, these wines are fully developed, with flavors that have a roundness and ample richness. These are the Beaujolais that full-flavored dishes and Gamay connoisseurs crave for, as a pairing.

Have you ever tasted a bevy of Gamay wines? Not everyone has. Certainly, I had a very limited knowledge going into my education in Beaujolais. We all tend to gravitate toward the known… It’s such a snap to say, “I’ll have a Cab or a Chard,” because those are the most selling wines in the world right now. These Morgon wines I’m writing about today are for both present and future Beaujolais lovers, for the most curious among us, because of their versatility. You can usually find us in the Netflix section of “Foreign Subtitled Movies.”

Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes

A Touching Story

So, here we are at Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes, in Morgon. The visit began with a tour in the wine cellar, and a history lesson in the tasting room:


Jean Ernest Descombes was not only a gifted winemaker, but he also had the reputation for being an outstanding winegrower. When he was with us, three fourths of his vines were already over 50-years old, already completely established in their best “terroirs.” After he passed in October 1993, his daughter Nicole inherited the family business.

Nicole Descombes Savoye

Nicole explained that she had lost both her mother and father within three months. It was really hard for me to even imagine this set of circumstances, while feeling immense empathy. I became distracted for a bit, processing it all.

[PHOTO: Left to right: Jessica Norman Dupuy, Dianna Michniewicz, Romain Teyteau, Nicole Descombes Savoye, and Amanda Burrill.]

Later, when home from France and reading Georges Duboeuf’s autobiography, I found the pivotal point for when Georges Duboeuf began his négociant career, and it had to do with Georges’ friend Jean Ernest Descombes’ passing. Georges lost a wonderful friend. Nicole not only lost both parents, but she no longer was part of the winery; she was the winery. Together, a solution evolved for moving past the grief and into the future. This adult woman, who was a child that Georges watched growing into womanhood, he would help her sell her wine. He had the connections; she had the wine.

He had two stipulations, however: The winery name must remain the same, and a picture of Jean Ernest Descombes must also be on the label.

That was then, and this is now.

Nicole Descombes: “Wine always resembles the person who made it”

This is actually what keeps wine writers writing. We know that whoever we meet, and then write about, is a unique character. That part of terroir translates right into their wine. While the wine’s story is reflected by what’s present in the glass, what’s behind it is a farming family with unique passions… growing it and crafting it into this magical, transformative beverage. Nicole said the same about her father’s Morgon; and so she must carry it forward, must carry on. And, she’s had Duboeuf’s support, for the entire past 19 harvests… since her father’s passing.

[Cement fermenting and aging tanks]

In the winery, nothing has changed, because it was the wish of Nicole’s father. So, it has still has Jean and his wife’s charm, which really welcomes you in. Antiques are everywhere. His request has guaranteed a museum in his name for us all to enjoy, while tasting and enjoying his wine. There seems to be a time, when in Beaujolais – perhaps other regions, too; but further researching needed for this one – collecting calliopes seems to have been a fad. Perhaps it’s the lighthearted and jubilant spirit of Beaujolais. There is nothing like – after a wine experience – having an owner turn on her calliope and just smiling all of the while. According to Wikipedia: “In Greek mythology, Calliope is the Muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; so called from the ecstatic harmony of her voice.” Calliopes seems the perfect representation of Beaujolais and Nicole , honestly.

Final thought: Today, Georges Duboeuf is nicknamed the king of Beaujolais, and Nicole Descombes Savoye is often nicknamed its Queen… This is a very important family relationship, because the Duboeufs really do take people into their hearts, and Nicole Descombes was ready to extend her family.

Quintessential Wines is the importer for the US.