2008 Domaine Chamonard Morgon

The Labours of the Months: January, National Gallery

“The Labours of the Months: January”, National Gallery

Real concern for the future is always more persuasive in those who have a genuine feeling for the past.” – Dr. Nicholas Penny (Director, National Gallery)

The National Gallery has long been one of my favourite places in London, its broad and deep collection offering new delights and familiar friends each visit. I usually start with the most recent galleries in the East Wing (19th century), and proceed counter-clockwise to end in the Sainsbury Wing (medieval art). By beginning with the most immediate and familiar pieces, it is easier to pick an individual strand, and trace it back along the arc of Western art history. The brilliant seam of colour from Van Gogh to Titian via Manet and Velázquez is especially poignant when one realises that genius is just as likely to be unrecognised (Van Gogh) or scorned (Manet) as it is to be rewarded by royal patronage (both Velázquez and Titian).

Jean-Claude (“J-C”) Chanudet seeks that same intense purity of flavour in his wines, as did his father-in-law Joseph Chamonard (hence the name of the domaine) and their mentor, Jules Chauvet, widely considered the spiritual father of the natural wine movement. Both J-C and the domaine remain little-known outside a small group of vignerons and wine professionals, which is startling when one tastes older wines chez Chanudet. The warm, easy vintages (such as 2009) are delicious, of course, but J-C really excels in difficult years, much as Titian and Van Gogh could tease out the inner beauty of otherwise banal subjects.

I recently drank a bottle of his 2008 Morgon with two friends at the end of a long night. It was impossible to tell that ripening was slowed by a damp summer that year, or that a freak August hailstorm had made the vines vulnerable to mildew. Instead, the wine was just starting to blossom, with floral notes of jasmine and myrtle and an exceptionally supple body. It seemed, like the very best wines, effortlessly beautiful.

J-C explaining erosion

J-C explaining erosion

But of course it wasn’t. Every year, throughout the year, J-C puts in an inspiring amount of careful thought and hard work, especially in the vineyard. The first time we visited, the majority of our conversation as we walked through all his holdings was about soil erosion. The granite hillocks which characterise Beaujolais are mostly convex, hence the topsoil washes away easily if it is denuded by chemicals or over-ploughed (a silent sin of many organic growers). J-C’s four hectares are beautifully kept and outstanding, remarkable considering that many of his neighbours are equally fanatical and talented farmers. He says he does it for the next generation, even though there is no clear successor, because it is the only way to honour Chauvet’s and Chamonard’s painstaking pursuit of purity.

We are proud to release the 2008 Domaine Chamonard Morgon as part of our Prêt à Prendre list for January 2014, in time for Chinese New Year festivities. It is versatile enough to match the panoply of dishes at reunion dinners, and incredibly charming on its own. Serve it slightly chilled at around 16°C, and a bit of air in a narrow decanter helps to open it up.

S$321 for a half-case of six bottles, and S$578 for a case of twelve. Prices include GST; no further discounts applicable.

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