Domaine Lagneau Régnié Vieilles Vignes 2011
Régnié is a Beaujolais cru that I have never really gotten to grips with. It is hardly the best known that is for certain; ask any wine drinker to rattle off a list of Beaujolais crus and, provided the question itself doesn't confound ('whaddya mean, bow-jolly cruise?') you are likely to be provided with a shortlist that starts and ends with Morgon or Moulin-â-Vent, or perhaps even Saint-Amour, a cru which receives an annual publicity boost every February 14th. I once toured and camped in the Beaujolais region (ahhh, camping - yes it was a long, long time ago) and stayed very close to Fleurie, and drank mostly the wines of that particular cru, so that would certainly make my personal list. And whereas I have encountered many bottles of Beaujolais since, especially Morgon (in particular the vineyards of the Côte de Py) and Brouilly from the likes of Jean Foillard, Marcel Lapierre and Jean-Claude Lapalu (the region is a 'natural' wine hotbed, and these names are some of the best) few have come from Régnié. In the Beaujolais year book Régnié must win the 'Least Likely to Achieve Anything Memorable' competition hands down.
This wine, then, from Régnié, adds a little to my knowledge of the Beaujolais region. The fruit comes from the slopes around the little town of Régnié-Durette, the focus for the Régnié appellation. This is a small but beautifully presented town with a rather grand church built between 1867 and 1895, and designed by noted ecclesiastical architect Pierre Bossan. The design of the church was repeated in his subsequent and final design, the imposing Fourvière Basilica in Lyon. Its sense of grandeur is mirrored somewhat in the wines of Régnié, as signs dotted about the region proclaim Régnié to be the Prince des Crus, a statement I find wonderfully self-assured considering the village's rather low-key reputation.
Régnié was the very last of the ten Beaujolais crus to be elevated to such a status, the promotion having been signed off in 1988. It is also one of the southernmost crus, with only Brouilly and the Côte de Brouilly (and of course a great swathe of generic Beaujolais vineyards) to the south. To the north and east lie the vineyards of the aforementioned Morgon. The slopes here sit at an altitude of 200 to 500 metres (such dizzying heights compared to the sea-level undulations of the Médoc) and all told there are about 400 hectares authorised for the appellation. Superficially the soils are light and sandy, although what really counts is what lies below and, as is the case with all the Beaujolais crus, we have here granite, in this instance a pink variety.
Proprietor Gérard Lagneau has vines in both the Régnié (12 hectares) and the Côte-de-Brouilly (0.6 hectares) crus, as well as more generic appellations. The vineyards see a mix of enherbement as well as working the soil, and the viticultural philosophy is lutte raisonnée. After hand-picking the cellars the wines see semi-carbonic maceration and temperature-controlled fermentation, and I presume - from the way the wines taste - that they are not yeast-inoculated, at least not with any of the more wacky aromatic yeasts that have been used in the region. In my very limited experience of his wines it would seem that both of his cru cuvées are worth exploring. In the case of the 2011 vintage, however, it is the Régnié, made from the fruit of 70-year old vines (proper vieilles vignes then - across the domaine the vines range from 55 to 100 years of age) that seems the most convincing. The hue is vibrant yet dark and convincing, and it has a very open, expressive nose, with berry fruits all dark and stony. It feels pure, fresh and not confected. The palate has a lovely fruit-rich character, with fresh savoury edges, a lightly mineral bite, correct acidity and a very harmonious texture and balance. This is a very convincing wine, with a really savoury, granite-stone edge to it, and a little tannic twist at the end. It is fine for drinking now, but this wine - real Beaujolais, not some banana-tinged confection - will improve over two or three years in the cellar. 16.5/20 (18/11/13)
Disclosure: the wine featured was a sample from Cadman Fine Wines, and I also tasted the Domaine Lagneau Côte-de-Brouilly, which cam close to the Régnié in terms of quality, but with a rather darker, more savoury style which demanded time in the cellar.