The road that took us to Dominique Piron was a long one. We love Beaujolais but it hadn’t been easy to unearth a producer that brought together all the pieces of the jigsaw: Good roots, devotion to fruit, transparency of terroir and titillating interplay of flesh, tannin, acidity and minerality.
Then we found Dominique Piron, which traces its roots back to 1590 and which made a spectacular debut in the CellarHand portfolio with its 2013 wines. The wines have been on an excellent trajectory, with 2015 through to 2020 throwing up strikingly consistent quality that belie varying harvest conditions.
Dominique and his long-term business partner Julien Revillon put heaps of work into sharpening the precision of the wines, and it paid off. 2020 itself was momentous in that Dominique – lacking a family heir – handed the reins onto his Beaujolais born-and-bred protégé Julien. The latter couldn’t be more excited about the future, and nor could we.
And now we have a panoply of fruits from that vintage. The 2020 range is now rounded out with the pulpy, jolly Brouilly and top-cuvée Morgon Côte du Py joining the Fleurie and essential staple that is the Beaujolais-Villages.
The vines for Piron’s Beaujolais-Villages surround the crus on the hills of the northern half of Beaujolais. They mostly have an east-facing exposition and have sandy granitic soils comprising small stones that store the sun’s heat and then release it gently during the night. This helps conserve the natural freshness of the fruit. These vines at 50 years old on average.
100% Gamay grapes are harvested by hand, selected on a sorting table, and given a very gentle destemming (80% of the bunches) before fermentation takes place in cement and stainless steel. The fermentation never lasts longer than 8-10 days in order to preserve freshness. When the cuvées are chosen for the final blend, wines with juicy fruit, complexity and fine structure go to the Beaujolais-Villages as opposed to the simpler straight Beaujolais.
Graphite and pomegranate and wild night-jasmine, bosky fragrance. Particularly fine tannin texture, like a flute whittled out of olive wood and polished to a silky sheen. The fruit, dark red and sculpted, has startling purity for a Beaujolais-Villages. Clean, long, evening-breeze-fresh, graphite-lined finish. Very good value.16.5/20 Tamlyn Currin, jancisrobinson.com
Such a generous and expressive wine for this humble appellation with plenty of violet and herbal aromas and healthy tannins. Ripe black cherries on the mid-palate and a lively mineral finish that pulls you back for more of this beautifully crafted red. Drink or hold.91 points. James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Brouilly is the largest and furthest south of the Beaujolais crus. It has a good south eastern exposure, at the bottom of the Saône Valley at an altitude of 200 to 300 metres. The subsoil consists of granite debris and blue-tinged schist.
The cru is situated in the north of Beaujolais. The pink granite of the soils of steep Fleurie vineyards are more acid and produce lighter, more delicate wines than, say, Morgon, and can be some of the most charming of all Beaujolais. This wine from 50-year-old vines is perhaps a bit more mineral than the supple Brouilly, a slightly more ‘serious’ affair.
Gosh, this smells gorgeous! Peonies and very ripe nectarines. Lots of acidity, giving the almost sumptuous fruit a crystal-cut sharpness. Deep, intense strawberry and raspberry fruit with that peony-like fragrance still breathing through the whole length of the wine. 17/20 Tamlyn Currin, jancisrobinson.com August 2021
This is a very ripe and bold Booj, though it does have a stony ‘mineral’ character, but with rich dark cherry, liquorice and chocolate, though some dried flower perfume and spice is there too. It’s fleshy and chocolaty, almost like a Shiraz, but does carry perfume and stamp of region, just not so much tension and finesse. Tannin is sooty and sweeps through the wine, and the finish is all ripe cherry and chocolate. I like this wine, though it’s atypical, and likely best enjoyed young. 93 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
The Côte du Py is the most revered climat of Morgon, which itself is generally regarded as one of the two greatest of the 10 crus of Beaujolais. The climat runs to about 180ha, of which the estate owns 9.2ha. The average age of Piron’s vines is around 55-60 years.
The sloped vineyard takes in all aspects but Dominique Piron’s vines mainly face east and southeast. Typically for Beaujolais, vines are planted with 10,000 vines per hectare (1m x 1m) and are pruned in gobelet.
Most of the Côte du Py is composed of what geologists call “blue stones”. This was created between 400 and 360 million years ago, so it’s much older than the granite here. Stones are generally blue but sometimes pink or red. These soils are full of magnesium and not as acid as granite, with more clay content, meaning they’re richer and can keep more humidity. Sometimes they’re called “schistes” because in some places the rocks have been compressed and are more “flattened”.
Blue-stone terroirs produce great wines with Gamay. They’re stronger and more powerful, but also complex and mineral. Other blue stone terroirs in Beaujolais are found in Côte de Brouilly and Juliénas, and makes wines which can be kept for 20 to 30 years.
The domaine destems the bunches and gives extended maceration with pumpovers and plunging, Macerations can last three weeks at controlled temperatures.
The wine is mostly aged in concrete and stainless steel but with 25% going into young French oak barrels. After one year, the different parts are selected carefully and blended together. Then the wine spends one more year in bottle before being sold.
Bruised iris, earthy, woody, violet-flower scented. This is rather glamorous! The moment it was in my mouth, the only word I could find was ‘magnificent’. It tasted, felt, like black-purple silk. Like midnight. Like pewter by candlelight. Smoky yet headily floral – but darkly floral. Pomegranate molasses and souk spice. Black cherries and kohl pencil. A Beaujolais channelling the soul of Marrakech. It would be fascinating to taste this with Moroccan food…17/20. Tamlyn Currin, jancisrobinson.com
This deep, complex Morgon needs some further maturation or aeration to reveal its spicy, dried-herb and mineral depths. Excellent balance of these elements with fine tannins and a medium-full body. Long, complex finish, in which the tannins and mineral acidity are beautifully intertwined. Drinkable now, but better from 2022.94 points. James Suckling, jamessuckling.com