09 August 2017

n.d.p. in beaujolais: sebastien congretel, régnié-durette

The Beaujolais is barren for good restaurants, and the village of Régnié-Durette is no exception. Any business in Régnié-Durette has the added disadvantage of being secluded: the village proper, unlike nearby towns of Cercié and Villié-Morgon, is set back from the departmental roads. To explore Régnié-Durette usually means going out of one's way.

On drive from his newly restored home in the village to the cuvage he borrows from his father-in-law in Lantignié, I ask newly-installed vigneron Sebastien Congretel how the local Régnié restaurant is. He laughs. "They serve food," he says, in the manner of one awarding the highest possible praise.

Clean-cut, bespectacled, lightly jock-ish, Congretel wouldn't be picked out of a line-up as a vigneron. He formerly lived in the 11ème arrondissement of Paris, and had begun a career working on oil rigs before deciding, in 2015, to become a vigneron in the Beaujolais, where his wife Charlotte's family maintain a handsome estate in Lantignié. Her father lent him the use of a cuvage and equipment, and he was able to acquired parcels in Morgon and Régnié. In another stroke of luck, he fell in with two more senior Beaujolais immigrants, the brothers Julien and Antoine Sunier, who make formidable natural wine in Avenas and Régnié, respectively. This year sees the release of what Congretel considers his proper debut vintage - and the Morgon, in particular, implies he's a very quick study.

The fruit derives from a 75-are parcel under organic conversion in Saint-Joseph, adjacent to the old vines of Villié-Morgon grand-master Guy Breton. Fermentation was at ambient temperature, on natural yeasts, for twelve days in cement tank. The wine was aged in old oak barrel and bottled without filtration. Congretel wisely decided against degassing, which seem to have helped the wine avoid the glycerolic character that marked some strict-carbo fermented wines in 2016.

The result is ferrous, racy, raspberry-toned and pale - everything I tend to seek for in altitudinous Morgon.

"Until the last three days of fermentation, the colour was even lighter than that, in fact," Congretel recounts. "[My father-in-law told me if you want to snag a bit of colour, do one or two pump-overs or pigeages. So I did."

Congretel gives credit also to Julien Sunier, citing him as his "Master Yoda." Indeed, the Morgon is, stylistically, a dead-ringer for Sunier's massively-improved 2016 wines. "How he handles he tanks, what he does, his method of thinking - all that really inspired me," Congretel affirms.

Congretel is in the habit of offering tastes of his Régnié after his Morgon, because he is aware there is more long-term commercial opportunity in valorizing his work in Régnié. (Any newcomer to Morgon is necessarily competing with the work of legends like Jean Foillard, Jean-Claude Chanudet, Georges Descombes, Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, etc.) But he admits the wine is still in a transitional stage.

The wine was vinified precisely the way the Morgon was, but wound up with much lower CO2. Aging was in a mix of barrel and foudre. The wine, not bad by any measure, lacks the swing of the Morgon. Its fruit is more diffuse, tending red-licorice. It derives from the sandier, Cercié end of Régnié, in the lieux-dit of Les Bulliats and Les Perras.

"Does it come from the soil, from that fact that it’s flatter, the parcel?" he muses. "It could come with time, from reworking the vines in the old ways, to search for a bit of depth."

The otherwise radiant promise of Congretel's first wines is somewhat undercut by their whimsical labels. The flaw lies not in their design, which remains relatively sober and informative, but in the excess of overconceived names and titles they bear. The Morgon is entitled "Vin de Zelebrité," while the Régnié is "Vin de Cha-Cha." Each also bears a logo of spectacles and the phrase "L'Epicurieux," which, I learned upon questioning, is the name of Congretel's domaine. Here is Congretel's explanation of the "Vin de Zelebrité": 

"When I lived in the 11ème, I was always partying there with friends. My nickname was 'the Zebra.' The Zebra is someone who amuses himself and goes a bit crazy. Then there’s the side of 'zeal.' Then there’s the side of 'celebrity.'"*

Congretel's introduction to the life of a vigneron hasn't been entirely without more practical hurdles. The cuvage his father lent needed some significant refurbishment, including leveling the floor and replacing the doors. He's replanting a significant chunk of his Morgon parcel, having concluded the roots are simply too close to the soil, thanks to its previous regime of chemical agriculture. In 2017 he's expanded his holdings in Régnié, and plans to take on another small parcel adjacent to his Morgon soon, though that, too, will have to be replanted.

"If I stopped my old work and went to the vines, it wasn’t to not work," he says. "It was really to work and do good things."

Lantignié vines recently restructured to wide spacing by Congretel's father-in-law, Gilles Perroud. 

* Two rules of thumb regarding puns on wine labels: 

1. No more than one pun per label. 
2. If the pun requires a lengthy explanation, it is not a good pun. 

Sebastien Congretel
178 rue du Bourg

Related Links:

Beaujolais 2017: 

Gilles Paris, Chiroubles

Beaujolais 2016:

Château des Rontets, Fuissé
Nicolas Dubost, Saint-Germain-sur-l'ArbresleRomain des Grottes, Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières
Yann Bertrand's First Primeur
Beaujolais Harvests 2016
Christophe Pacalet, Cercié
Sylvère Trichard & Elodie Bouvard (Séléné), Blacé
Jérome Balmet, Vaux-en-Beaujolais
L'Auberge du Moulin, Saint-Didier-sur-Chalaronne
Jean-François Promonet, Leynes
Hervé Ravera, Marchampt
Justin Dutraive, Fleurie
Julien Merle & Nathalie Banes, Legny
La Fête des Conscrits, Villié-Morgon
Domaine Leonis (Raphael Champier & Christelle Lucca), Villié-Morgon

Beaujolais, Autumn 2015:

Xavier Benier, Saint-Julien
Jean-Gilles Chasselay, Châtillon d'Azergues
Marcel Joubert, Quincié
Nicolas Chemarin, Marchampt
Anthony Thévenet, Villié-Morgon
Romain Zordan, Fleurie
Yann Bertrand, Fleurie
Domaine Thillardon, Chénas
Sylvain Chanudet, Fleurie
Patrick "Jo" Cotton, Saint-Lager
Pierre Cotton, Odenas
L'Auberge du Col du Truges, Le Truges
Julie Balagny, Moulin-à-Vent
La Cuvée des Copines 2015
Beaujolais Harvests 2015

Beaujolais Bike Trip, Summer 2015:

Georges Descombes, Vermont
Jean-Paul Thévenet, Pizay
Jules Métras, Fleurie
Rémi et Laurence Dufaitre, Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières
Jean-Claude Lapalu, Saint-Etienne-La-Varenne
Benoit Camus, Ville-sur-Jarnioux

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