Andrew Guard

2018 Fleurie 'Vieilles Vignes', Georges Descombes

Beaujolais in late January makes for an eerie landscape. The gray, cloudy skies are set against hectares of dead earth dotted with lines of stunted, gnarly vines, pruned down for the dormant stages of winter. In the morning, fog rolls over and down the hillsides and the wet clay sticks to your shoes with a vengence. It's a great time to see the stark differences between conventional and organic farming. Even in the cold of January, the vineyards of Georges Descombes have a bright, green ground cover with small flowers just beginning to bloom. His vines looked like they were still sleeping as the earth slowly wakes up. The conventional vineyards look just like the surface of the moon... This superb wine is from the famed Grille-Midi section of Fleurie - Yvon Metras has his vines here too. This has a super granite/floral nose that is very attractive, particularly the top notes of strawberries and violets. This is a super bottle; sweet, fresh, crunchy - perfect balance and super length.

I am excited to finally have the wines of Georges Descombes in my portfolio. He is the unofficial 5th member of the famed ‘Gang of Four’ (Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Guy Breton) who shook things up in the late eighties by returning to the old practices of viticulture and vinification: starting with old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or none at all, and disdaining chapitalization. Their wines have become world famous and each has his individual style.

In the winery, he uses very little (or no) sulphur and eschews filtration. Where his style differs from his peers is that he leaves the must to undergo cold carbonic maceration for a whole 30 days. He then ages his wines for around a year (in barrels for the Vieilles Vignes) prior to bottling. Further extended ageing in bottle helps these natural wines to stabilise and develop. The resulting wines are amazingly fresh and mineral whilst having the structure to age.