Depardon Domaine de la Bêche, Morgon

Domaine de la Beche label

Country & RegionFrance, Burgundy
ProducerOlivier and Ghislaine, Caroline and Alexis Depardon
FoundedFamily property since 1848; Olivier took reins in 1985.

Domaine de la Bêche was founded deep in the hills of Beaujolais in 1848. Olivier Depardon, the family’s 7th generation, took the reins in 1985 with 4 acres of vines and over the years this industrious man increased the domain’s holdings to 65 acres. Most are in AOP Morgon, followed by Regnié and then Beaujolais-Villages. He also invested in new equipment and has plans on hand to expand the cellar.

In 2003 he made the decision to de-stem all the fruit and stop working with whole clusters (but retaining whole berries, thus gentle ferments with a semi-carbonic result), but he still uses the 5,000 and 6,000-liter foudres that his father and grandfather used to age the Morgon VV and Côte du Py. All fermentations continue to be spontaneous.

Domaine de la Beche 2 generations

In 2013 his son Alexis joined the domain following enological studies. In 2018, Alexis’ older sister Caroline also joined the domain, and now the commercial side is mostly handled by her and her mother Ghislaine, while the vines and cellar are mostly handled by Olivier and Alexis (with the aid of patriarch Maurice, Olivier’s father, who still is out in the vines pruning—apparently much faster than either his son or grandson). But everyone does a bit of everything.

Domaine de la Beche 3 generations

The domain is unique in the appellation for having vines in all six of Morgon’s climats. They are Les Charmes, Côte du Py, Corcellette, Douby, Grand Cras, and Micouds, and grapes from each go into the Morgon Vieille Vignes cuvée. In that sense, this cuvée qualifies as the most representative Morgon of all, and it certainly supports the notion that Morgon, along with Moulin-à-Vent, is the densest and longest-lived of the Beaujolais crus.

Locals refer to the appellation’s soils as roche pourrie, or rotten rock, because it’s particularly weathered. It’s also iron-rich, which has to do with its diverse geology—the soils here are not simply granitic, but rather a mix, especially around Côte du Py, of schist, granite, and even metamorphosed andesite (the so-called “blue granite” of Côte du Py and of that other extinct volcano, Côte du Brouilly).

Following Brouilly, Morgon is the second largest of Beaujolais’ ten crus.

Domaine de la Beche bottle shots

The Wines

RégniéGamayThe domaine farms ten acres in this high elevation appellation just southwest of Morgon. The vines average 50 years and grow on a steep, south-facing hillside of sandy granitic soil. The grapes are de-stemmed but not crushed, and ferments are spontaneous. The élevage is a relatively short one of six or so months in concrete vats, making for an especially exuberant wine of crisp red berry fruit. Production averages 1,670 cases.
Morgon Vieilles Vignes
GamayThis comes from 27 acres of 70+year-old vines growing across Morgon’s six climats. All the grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with indigenous yeast. Most of the wine is raised in very large, old foudres of 5- and 6,000-liters for nine to ten months, while about 5% is aged in older 225-liter barrels. This is an especially dense, dark Morgon. No fining; light filtration at bottling. Production averages 6,700 cases.

Morgon Côte du PyGamay
This is labeled under the family name rather than the domaine name for inheritance and tax reasons. Py is a collapsed volcano cone, a great mound dominating the landscape just south of the town of Villié-Morgon, and it is composed primarily of schist with some granite and blue-stoned andesite. The southern end of this mound is considered the best zone for vines—it has the best exposition plus it’s the rockiest (super rocky!), whereas the northern end is much sandier—and the Depardons have all of their 7.5 acres in three parcels on the southern end, facing south and southeast.

The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented with indigenous yeast, and the wine is raised for nine to ten months entirely in old foudres of 5- to 6,000-liters. The Depardon’s Côte du Py is all about finesse and concentrated elegance. No fining; light filtration at bottling. Production averages 1,250 cases.