The Young Beaujolais Winemaker Branching Off From Family Tradition

The Young Beaujolais Winemaker Branching Off From Family Tradition

Oct 25, 2021Sadie Williams

Kewin Descombes is the kind of winemaker who forces you to stop and ask, “What might I accomplish if I set out on my own?” Not necessarily as a winemaker, farmer, or homesteader. Moreso, I think the question is about the things that bind us and keep us from “setting out” in the first place, whether that’s family, relationships, a job, a place, or a certain mindset. Kewin’s journey as a winemaker offers a compelling incentive to answer with action.

Kewin is an objectively young Beaujolais winemaker — he produced his first vintage at the age of 21 in 2013. He farms three small plots in Beaujolais and Morgon, one of which he recently purchased. The other two are rented. 

It makes sense that the young winemaker would farm in this way, scattered between small plots throughout the region. The French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Codes make it incredibly difficult to pass land down through the family line without it being split into miniscule pieces. This explains both why the parcels he rents are so small (around 1.5 hectares each) and why he rents in the first place. Because being the child of a winemaker, especially in Burgundy, is complicated.

Kéké Wine

Kewin’s father, Georges Descombes, is called the unofficial fifth member of the Gang of Four, the winemakers who revolutionized Beaujolais. Georges makes wine in the style that we love: minimal intervention in the vineyard and cellar, maximum rendering of terroir in the glass. Kewin also has a step-brother, Damien Coquelet, who is a winemaker too. Damien also began making wine young, at the age of 20 in 2007.

Usually, someone would insert a line here about how Kewin “followed in his father’s footsteps.” Because yes, he is a winemaker. He works in the same region. He works in a similar, natural style. But he’s not a follower, he’s on his own path. And there is value in the act of breaking away. Of doing things your way. It shows in the wines he make, especially this Beaujolais. It’s highly drinkable and fresh, but with a floral depth, not necessarily the aroma, but the sensation you would get if you stuck your nose deep into a flower: a warmth, a closeness, a wash of color over your eyes. And the name of this bottle, Kéké? That’s Kewin’s nickname. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there.


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