Guy Breton | Beaujolais
If there is one winemaker that would win 'hide-and-seek' by far, it would definitely be Guy Breton! Besides no indication of winery's location on the world wide web (and I'm talking no email, no phone number, no address), once in Villié-Morgon it took another few awkward phone calls and conversations with random strangers in broken French to finally be guided to an inconspicuous doorway. No signs, no bright letters, no nothing. Because Guy Breton simply doesn't need to. It took a lot of determination to find this place, but oh, it was so worth it!
Also known as "Petit Max" by his friends, Guy Breton is certainly a name in everyone's ear ever since Kermit Lynch dubbed him, together with Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Jean Foillard, as Beaujolais famous "Gang of Four" in the '80s. The essence of their philosophy: take a step back, appreciate and cultivate old vines, apply organic farming practices, avoid the use of sulphur, let natural ferments do their magic and help the terroir express itself through minimal intervention. Following these principals, each of them has ever since proven that Beaujolais is more than just 'Nouveau' and can indeed produce meaningful, complex and wonderful wines.
Our tasting lineup in 2018
Guy Breton during our visit in 2019
Breton loves wines that are easy to drink, and his are typically the lightest in color, the lowest in alcohol, and the least tannic of the Gang of Four. He took over his grandfather's domaine in 1986 and is nowadays farming 4 hectares organically, with around 80% being planted in the Morgon appellation. The age of his vines varies, with the oldest 80-year-old vines dedicated to his “Vieilles Vignes” cuvée. After careful selection of grapes in the vineyard, vinification begins with carbonic maceration at low temperatures. Fermentation occurs naturally and lasts usually between 15 and 21 days. Once the process is finished the grapes are pressed in an old wooden press. The wines are then aged in used Burgundian barrels before they are bottled unfiltered and unfined.
Beaujolais lies to the south of Burgundy, overlapping Mâcon in the north and bordering the Rhône in the south. In opposition to its famous brother Burgundy, Beaujolais is nearly entirely planted with Gamay, and a little Chardonnay. The region is approx. 55km long and 14km wide, with around 18,000 ha under vine. The proximity to the Mediterranean sea and the tempering influences of the Massif Central in the west are creating a semi-continental climate. Terroirs vary significantly from north to south and so do the wines: The north (more hilly) produces more structured and complex wines (Crus) on schist & granite dominant soils, where lighter and fruitier styles (Nouveau & Village) are more common in the south, in the 'Bas' (= plains), where soils are richer and more fertile. Beaujolais shows one of the highest density plantings worldwide of around 9,000-13,000 vines/ha, with usually Gobelet or Cordon training being used. Due to the 'carbonic maceration' style famous to the region, grapes are mostly harvested by hand to not break the berries and allow this special fermentation technique in a carbon dioxide-rich environment to take place. The result is a reduction in the wine’s tannin and an enhancement of particular fruity aromas and flavors in the wine. Another common style is 'Beaujolais Nouveau': it is the lightest, fruitiest style of Beaujolais and meant for simple quaffing. Any Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages AOC vineyard can produce Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes are harvested between late August and early September. It is fermented for just a few days and released to the public on the third Thursday of November - "Beaujolais Nouveau Day". It is the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. In contrast to the Nouveau style, only specific regions are allowed to label their wines as highest quality Beaujolais Grand Crus: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. They are all beautifully different and equally delicious, each Cru with its very own character to be discovered. From Fleurie, the "Pretty Princess", over Morgon, the "Bold One", to Brouilly, the "Crowd-pleaser".
2018 Marylou Beaujolais Village (arriving Spring 2019)
I don’t like tannins. I never imagined I would hear a winemaker utter such words, much less one who produces only red wine. But Guy Breton is not shy about his preferences, and he crafts wines aiming to please himself—and possibly some buddies with whom to share a couple bottles and a plate of charcuterie. Marylou, named for his eldest daughter, epitomizes his taste for lithe, perfumed reds with low alcohol that can be glugged down effortlessly. Juicy, fruit-driven, and full of joyous energy, it has little tannin to speak of—nothing to grab hold of your palate as it passes over, making it all too easy for it to slide right down the hatch.
- Anthony Lynch, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants
2017 Marylou Beaujolais Village (sold out)
- Guy’s Beaujolais Villages “Marylou” is sourced from the Saint Joseph and Grand Cras subzones of the appellation, about 500 meters from his Morgon vines. 45 year-old Gamay growing on granite and rock. The wine is named after his daughter.
- Quaffable, bright and fruity Beaujolais, dangerously easy drinking!
2018 Régnié (arriving Spring 2019)
2017 Régnié (sold out)
- Sourced from the hills between the Côte de Brouilly and the Côte du Py of Morgon, around the village of Régnié-Durette
- First production in 2008
- Guy’s grandfather handed down the two parcels that go into this wine: one with 100-year-old and the other with 35-year-old vines. The shallow soil of sand and decomposing stones gives the vines easy access to the bedrock, creating firm wines with more grip and acidity than in Morgon.
2018 Morgon (arriving Spring 2018)
2017 Morgon (sold out)
- Guy’s flagship wine
- Sourced from the Saint Joseph and Grand Cras subzones of the appellation, which give fine, stony wines
- A high-lying sandy parcel contributes more complexity, structure, and acidity to the blend
- This higher-altitude vineyards give a remarkably lively, ethereal expression of Morgon
2017 Morgon Vieilles Vignes (arriving Spring 2018)
2018 Côte de Brouilly (arriving Spring 2019)
2017 Côte de Brouilly (sold out)
- first vintage
- Parcel located on the lower slope of the Côte de Brouilly, between Cercié and Odenas
- Ancient volcano soils, great sun exposure and good drainage making this wine a seriously intense and ageworthy companion
2017 Morgon “P'tit Max” (arriving Spring 2019)
2015 Morgon “P'tit Max” (sold out)
- Sourced from the Les Charmes lieu-dit of Morgon
- From a 2 ha parcel of vines averaging over 90+ years old
- Aged 12 months in barrel
- Classic red fruited Gamay notes accompanied by dried flowers with vivid, deep cherry notes. The purity of this wine is underlined by intense spices and complexity
2017 Chiroubles (arriving Spring 2019)
Tucked away up in the hills between Morgon and Fleurie, Chiroubles has often been described as “the most Beaujolais of the ten crus of Beaujolais.” In other words, everything that makes wines from this region so lovable—low alcohol, explosive flowery aromas, high-toned juicy fruit—are intensified in Chiroubles. “P’tit Max” Breton purchased some fruit here to compensate for the small yields in Morgon in 2017, and the new addition to the cellar is a made-in-heaven match with the house style. You’ll find no shortage of charm, gorgeous aromatics, and silky Gamay fruit to sink your teeth into, making his Chiroubles just about as swallowable as they come.
- Anthony Lynch, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants
2018 Chiroubles Cuvée Léa (arriving Spring 2019)
A new cuvée from 2018 - dedicated to his new granddaughter.