Jean-Paul Thévenet | Beaujolais

Nestled in the small village of Villié-Morgon in the wine producing region of  Beaujolais, Jean-Paul Thévenet is leading his family's winery in the third generation. His son Charly joined him in 2008 and they've been converting the 5 ha Domaine according to organic and biodynamic principles ever since. Charly is also making wines under his own label from the neighbouring Grand Cru Régnié

Jean-Paul Thévenet is certainly a name in everyone's ear ever since Kermit Lynch dubbed him, together with Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton 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 proven that Beaujolais is more than just 'Nouveau' and can indeed produce meaningful, complex and wonderful wines. 

Jean-Paul and Charly Thévenet
Jean-Paul and his son Charly. Photo: Vignerons de Nature

 Jean-Paul and Fesq's Joe Caruso in March 2019

Jean-Paul is solely making wines from the Morgon appellation, one of the 10 Grand Crus of Beaujolais. The average vine age is around 70 years, with one of the plots planted even before World War I! Grapes harvested manually as late as possible to achieve maximum ripeness. After a rigorous triage to only choose the healthiest berries, the whole clusters are being left to their own devices until indigenous yeast start fermentation naturally. Low temperatures over 15-25 days allow an extended skin contact, before the wines age on fine lees in 5-7 year-old oak Burgundian barrels for 6-8 months. Punchdowns only occur at the end of the vinification process. In alignment with the philosophy of natural winemaking, Jean-Paul Thévenet's wines do not undergo any fining or filtration.

Beaujolais. Image: VinePair


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 particularly fruity aromas and flavours 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 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 Morgon Vieilles Vignes (arriving Spring 2019)

Vine age: 70 years on average
Density: 10,000 vines/ha
Soil type: granitic soil
Cellaring: can be consumed young, although it can aged well like the very best Burgundy wines

Thévenet came to master his craft in the 1980s under the mentorship of a certain Marcel Lapierre, a childhood friend who convinced him of the merits of organic farming and low-intervention winemaking. Thévenet uses these methods to create wines of purity and finesse with a distinct stamp from their terroir on the sandy lower-lying slopes of the Morgon appellation. His is a Morgon of great breadth, filling the mouth with weightlessness and ending on a trademark note of velvety tannins enveloped by ripe fruit. With age, it tends toward notes of faded rose petals and earth, not unlike a fine Barolo.

- Anthony Lynch, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants


2017 Morgon Vieilles Vignes (sold out)

2016 Morgon Vieilles Vignes (sold out)


2018 Morgon Tradition (arriving Spring 2019)

Vine age: 15 – 30 years on average
Density: 10,000 vines/ha
Soil type: granitic soil
Cellaring: can be consumed young, although it can aged well like the very best Burgundy wines

Pure red fruits, a refreshing acidity, medium-bodied wine with an earthly complexity. The result of all this is a wine that has a vibrant bouquet with perfumed dark cherries and red currant. The palate is ample possessing beautiful silky tannins.