28 July 2011

beaujolais bike trip: le relais des caveaux, villié-morgon

On Sunday afternoon we coasted into the town of Villié-Morgon, the heart of the natural Beaujolais scene. The operation of the late great Marcel Lapierre is based here, as are those of many of the famed winemakers that followed Lapierre: Georges Descombes, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, etc.

We were scheduled to meet natural vigneron Karim Vionnet, who wasn't picking up his phone when we arrived. The town was as placid and inscrutable as any country town on a Sunday, and we did a few donuts around the roundabout by the church before deciding to just lock up the bikes and hit the bar Karim had mentioned frequenting, Le Relais des Caveaux

Which is of course where we found him, grinning with a demi in hand, explaining that his broken phone could receive but not make calls at the moment. 

By his own admission, he was in a fragile state, having apparently partied like a maniac the night before with a number of other vignerons at a town fair. I had actually been lobbying hard for scheduling our bike trip to coincide with this fair, about which I knew nothing except that it sounded like a drunken good time. Alas, J'd had a work conflict.

Now, in deference to everyone's general exhaustion, we decided to put off tasting Karim's 2010's until the next morning. Since some time remained before dinner would be conceivable, we meandered out to the bar's deserted rear terrace and - what else? - continued drinking, albeit without really thinking about it.

Karim had gone so far as to mention, "Ce n'est pas nature, ça" when he noted I'd ordered a glass of Beaujolais Blanc. I'd nodded, shrugging; it's still educational for me to taste what passes for glass-pour swill in a place like Villié-Morgon, in a jovially unsophisticated joint like Le Relais des Caveaux, where seemingly every glitter-or-pink-themed novelty liqueur bottling was in stock behind the bar, and the main source of light in late afternoon was the wall-mounted television.

In fact the nameless Beaujolais Blanc was perfectly drinkable nothing-wine, exactly what I had in mind.* We all shared a pot of same wine, after the others had finished their Campari-sodas, and after I had enthused for some time about how mindbogglingly cheap it was. 1€ per glass or something.

Karim offered to lead us down the road to Agnès & Jean Foillard's chambre d'hôte, where we'd be staying that night. J and C were keen to take showers. "I think I'll just stay here in Morgon and drink myself to death," I said. "A euro a glass!"

My appreciation for the town reached something of an apex when, on our way out of the bar, I saw what we totally should have been drinking the whole time.

"Oh, her? That's the daughter of the owner of this place," Karim informed us, before adding that she'd of course been in attendance last night at the damn town fair we'd missed.

* The only example of Beaujolais Blanc that in my experience routinely rises above that standard is Domaine Valette's surprisingly durable version. A 2008 was wistfully gorgeous when I drank it in 2010; a 2009 I tasted the other day was wiry and forceful. 

Le Bourg
69910 Villié-Morgon
Tel: 04 37 55 07 97

Related Links: 

Beaujolais Bike Trip: Le Coq à Juliénas, Juliénas
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Beaujolais Comnuniqué

Many mentions of Vionnet's wines @ DuMorgonDansLesVeines
A video subtitled in Japanese of Karim Vionnet explaining @ Mtk1999'sYouTube
A profile of Karim Vionnet @ Beaujolais-Quebec

All the info you could possibly need on Miss Beaujolais @ MissBeaujolais
Photos of past Miss Beaujolais winners @ LyonClubbing


  1. Jean-Paul Brun makes excellent Beaujolais Blanc. You can get it at Le Cotte Rôti, for ex. Or at Lafayette Gourmet's wine area. 10€ish and a joy.

  2. Absolutely agree with Sharon. Though I'll admit I haven't had the chance to try Domaine Valette's version....