Gamay by the Greats: Our Team’s Favorite Beaujolais Producers Right Now
In the past 50 years, Beaujolais’s star has shot into the sky — what started as a small group of winemakers bent on getting back to the basics, making wine more naturally, has turned into a boom of producers young and old turning out minimal intervention Gamay. The plethora of Beaujolais on our shelves can be daunting. So we’ve assembled this list of 10 producers you need to know and taste. Their wines are essential chapters in the story of Beaujolais.
The Gang of Four
These four winemakers get most of the credit for turning Beaujolais into the hotbed of minimal intervention producers it is today. They were early disciples of chemist and winemaker Jules Chauvet. As early as the 1950s, Jules advocated for eliminating the use of chemicals and pesticides in the vineyard and minimal sulfur at bottling.
In the 1980s, Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean Foillard, and Jean-Paul Thevenét took up his torch and converted their vineyards to organics or biodynamics. The results spoke for themselves. Their classic, delicious cru Beajolais was put on the map when Kermit Lynch included all four producers in his portfolio and dubbed them “The Gang of Four.”
Guy Breton is one of the Gang of Four, and his wines are about as classic as it gets. Guy is lovingly known as ‘P’tit Max’ among friends and family, despite his physically large stature and the even larger legacy he has created for himself. As one of the Gang of Four, he’s inspired a legion of young winemakers to work more naturally.
Try his Morgon for a benchmark expression of both producer style and terroir, and his cuvée “Marylou” for something light, modern, and downright quaffable.
Marcel Lapierre’s children, Camille and Mathieu, have helmed the family business since Marcel’s passing in 2010. Of the four, Lapierre’s wines have the most immediate aura of celebration — they’re downright fun.
Their Morgon ‘S,’ a zero-sulfur-added cuvée, is their calling card bottle. It’s light and rich, with aromas typical of the Morgon region: cherry, violet, raspberry, and licorice. Their ‘Le Beaujolais’ comes from vineyards near Morgon and is so drinkable, with spiced red fruit notes, that you have no reason not to buy the Magnum as an excuse to throw a party.
Mathieu, Camille, and Anne Lapierre by Loic Terrier
Jean Foillard is blessed to have the majority of his vineyards on the famed Côte du Py slope in the Morgon cru. The hillside is home to some of the oldest soils in the region, boasting ancient blue granite and schist.
Jean’s wines are a case study in precision and weightlessness. There’s no need to meditate over each sip, or to age his bottles for decades: these wines are meant to effortlessly deliver and to do it immediately. His Morgon ‘Côte du Py’ is unbeatable, due in equal parts to great real estate and his natural touch for laser-focused Gamay.
“There is no bullshit in between Foillard’s wines and their enjoyment. They are super delicious, texturally marvelous, aromatically gorgeous — and they are all these things right away with a powerful immediacy.”
— Jazon Zuliani, Founder and CEO of Dedalus Wines
Jean-Paul and Charly Thevenét
Jean-Paul Thevenet is the third generation to produce wine at his family estate, and now he’s joined by his son Charly. Charly spent three years working at Marcel Lapierre’s cellar before returning to the family domaine and purchasing his own vines in the smaller cru of Regnie.
Jean-Paul’s wines are known for their serious structure and herbaceousness. They’re grounded, delivering juicy drinkability and a woodsy, rustic complexity.
While the others are big on the Paris wine scene, Jean-Paul is the most low-profile. He prefers to keep it simple and focuses on making a small amount of minimal intervention wine each year.
Though he grew up in the Beaujolais, Yann Bertand never intended to make wine. It wasn’t until he fell in with a group of wine geeks while he was in university that he gained an interest in his hometown industry.
As one of the younger winemakers on this list, Yann brings a youthful playfulness to his bottles. His ‘100% Julienas,’ for example, is not 100% Gamay: instead, it is fermented with 10% Chardonnay from the same parcel. The result is a juicy, light, interesting bottle that could only come from someone with a fresh perspective.
Jean Louis Dutraive
Jean-Louis Dutraive had big shoes to fill when he bought the oldest domaine in Fleurie, Domaine de la Grand Coeur in 1969, but he had no problem filling them. The domaine has been certified organic since 2009, but Jean-Louis has been practicing and influencing his neighbors for decades prior by touting the benefits of organic practices in the vineyard.
His larger-than-life personality is masterfully translated into every bottle he produces. He’s known to bring an endless supply of saucisson everywhere he goes, making every gathering into a celebration. Drink his wines accordingly, and bring a bottle of his Fleurie to your next party. Bottomless saucisson isn’t required, but it won’t hurt.
Sebastien Congretel is another winemaker who never expected to be making wine. It was instead his wife Charlotte who encouraged him to leave his career working on oil rigs to join her as she finished oenological school.
In 2018, they officially settled down in Regnie and named their domaine after the ancient philosopher Epicurus, who preached the pursuit of pleasure, tranquility, and harmony. That’s exactly what you’ll find in Sebastien and Charlotte’s vineyards and bottles. Like rolling the first raspberries of the season in fresh cracked black pepper, their wines are energetic, fresh, and meant to be drunk immediately.
If the name Foillard sounds familiar, that’s because Alex Foillard is the son of Gang of Four winemaker Jean Foillard. But instead of taking the traditional route and keeping it all in the family, Alex stepped out on his own.
After finishing his studies in Nuits-Saint Georges in Burgundy, he returned to his hometown in the Beaujolais to focus on Gamay. While his father focuses mainly on Morgon, Alex diversified his vineyards by purchasing vines in Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.
Alex’s wines are every bit as delicious, complex, and natural as his father’s. Silky, aromatic, and broad, we especially love his Brouilly. Alex’s Burgundian influence is present in this bottle, exhibiting a bit more muscle than one might expect from Gamay, but that’s why we love it. A formidable match for your next steak night.
Yet another young domaine, husband-wife duo Pierre and Marie Bonnet-Cotton released their first cuvée, ‘100% Cotton,’ in 2014. Since then, they’ve sourced fruit from vineyards all over the Beaujolais, including Regnie, Julienas, and Brouilly. We especially love their Brouilly ‘Les Grilles’ for a perfect companion to a meal off the grill (almost as much as we love how Pierre’s previous stint as a motorcycle mechanic inspires his label designs)!
Looking for something to impress your wine geek friends? Bring a bottle of Pierre and Marie’s Beaujolais Blanc, made of 100% Chardonnay, grown on an unusual stripe of limestone on their domaine.
Laura Lardy also never expected to find herself following in the family business, but her future in winemaking feels fated. She comes from a fourth-generation winemaking family, and in 2016, released her first vintage on her own. She found her niche by converting to organics and focusing on low-intervention winemaking.
We love the sheer versatility she’s able to pull out of Gamay. Laura knows how to tease out the seemingly endless expressions of Beaujolais’ star grape: while ‘Gourde a Gamay’ evokes freshly muddled berries from the farmer’s market, her Chenas is razor-sharp, electric, and almost savory with its through-line of woodsy herbs and licorice.
- Hooked on Beaujolais? Check out our interview with Mathieu Lapierre here, and read about those at the forefront of winemaking, pushing boundaries in the next generation of Beaujolais.
- Did you know that Beaujolais is actually a part of Burgundy? Learn more about the iconic wine region in our 101 article here.
- Beaujolais is the perfect Thanksgiving wine. Check out our lineup of Thanksgiving bottles here.