Few could hear the name ‘Marcel Lapierre’ without conjuring images of a biodynamic maverick. “The pope of natural wine”, he was the man who led the revolution against intervention in the vineyard, and firmly cemented his domaine as one of the best in the region by doing so. The domaine was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, with family entreprise at the heart of the winemaking. Three generations of Lapierre’s have now put their hands to these wines, with Marcel taking over in 1971 on the brink of real change at the estate. More recently, in 2005, his son Mathieu Lapierre returned to the vineyards, continuing in the pursuit of outstanding natural wines, as initiated by those before him.
Marcel’s contribution to the domaine was a very powerful one. He is still seen as an emblematic figure in Beaujolais. The first to profuce non-filtered and non-sulphur added wines, he took inspiration from Jules Chauvet, the founder of the natural wines theories. The winemaking set in place by Marcel focuses on preserving the biological complexity of the soil. The aim being to accurately express the minerality and richness of the soil. These wines are consistently well rated and it’s no wonder why.
The domaine is excellently located in the heart of the Beaujolais vineyards in “Villie-Morgon”, with plots blessed with old vines. Grapes are picked late in order to ensure perfect ripeness. In describing his goal with his winemaking, Marcel, in a very French manner, described a natural wine as “an unpasteurised cheese compared to an industrial one”. Natural winemakers, in theory, could be dismissed as mean and tightfisted. After all their method requires them to do less. But it was about intuition, about wtching and listening for the grapes to be ready, and then carefully selecting those which make the cut for the final product. This is where the skill lies. Furthermore Marcel was not an absolute purist. He added some sulfur when bottling those wines which would be exported overseas in order to retain their flavour, but even here they were trace elements.
Not only did he bring his domaine to new levels of notoriety, in turn he raised the profile of the entire region. He drew the world’s attention to wines of depth and purity, rather than the mass-produced simple fruity wines that the region had become known for. He, along with those who also followed his methods, gave Beaujolais crediblity as a real contender in the wine world.
Today the domaine produces few cuvees, but excellently executed. Juxtaposing eachother, I have to recommend you try the classic Morgon and the Raisins Gauloise (not least because I did recently and I’m still humming).
A full-bodied, powerful and meaty, with ripe cherry and strawberry flavours captured in an alluring deep garnet colour.
A little sister of the Morgon, this wine is fun. Made from the young gamay grapes with vines of about 20 years old, it is an explosion of fruit and juices, and a real symbol of Beaujolais.
– Lucy Kelly