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The New (Old) Lapierre Morgon

The New (Old) Lapierre Morgon

by Anthony Lynch by Anthony Lynch

2022 Morgon

2022 Morgon

M. & C. Lapierre   

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M. & C. Lapierre    France   |  Beaujolais   |  Morgon

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By now, with this thirty-fourth consecutive vintage of the domaine’s Morgon we’ve shipped to American shores, many are familiar with the significance of the name Lapierre on a wine label. Kermit summed it up concisely in 1992 when he wrote, “Lapierre is the Beaujolais renegade who does not chaptalize, does not add yeasts, and does not filter.” Marcel’s rejection of industrialized, production-oriented agriculture in favor of the labor-intensive traditional farming his father and grandfather practiced marked a turning point in the Beaujolais and beyond, as countless vignerons would later follow in his footsteps and embrace more natural ways of viticulture and winemaking.
    One part of the story often left out is that a young Marcel Lapierre, back at the domaine following military service in the early ’70s, initially convinced his father to abandon the old-fashioned ways of working for the modern techniques he had just learned in winemaking school. Not only were the Lapierres assured a consistent crop from year to year, but they could wave good-bye to the laborious days spent tilling the vineyard soils when a quick pass spraying synthetic herbicides would easily do the job.
    One little caveat, however: Marcel realized he couldn’t stand to drink his own wines, which he deemed insipid. He always found himself reaching for the bottles his late father had produced via those “archaic” methods. And so began, with the mentorship of an eccentric old biochemist named Jules Chauvet, a return to tradition: no more herbicides or chemical fertilizers, but also no more laboratory yeasts, massive doses of sulfur, acidification, chaptalization, or sterile filtration in the cellar. The 1978 vintage would be Marcel’s very first “natural wine.”
    Forty-four harvests later, Marcel’s son, Mathieu, and daughter, Camille, manage the domaine with the same sense of humility that their father learned in his early days. They have taken his life’s work and elevated it in the face of new challenges, namely a capricious and changing climate. The wines remain as good as ever: this is Gamay in its purest form, from some of the very best terroirs in the Beaujolais region. The newly arrived 2022 is a pleasure bomb, chock-full of silky ripe fruit, earthy tones, and a stimulating juicy energy. Kermit wrote of Marcel’s 1990 Morgon, “It is one of the most delicious young reds we have ever sold.” From a comparable vintage, this latest release makes me feel the same.

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About The Region

Beaujolais

map of Beaujolais

After years of the region’s reputation being co-opted by mass-produced Beaujolais Nouveau and the prevalence of industrial farming, the fortunes of vignerons from the Beaujolais have been on the rise in the past couple of decades. Much of this change is due to Jules Chauvet, a prominent Beaujolais producer who Kermit worked with in the 1980s and arguably the father of the natural wine movement, who advocated not using herbicides or pesticides in vineyards, not chaptalizing, fermenting with ambient yeasts, and vinifying without SO2. Chief among Chauvet’s followers was Marcel Lapierre and his three friends, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet—a group of Morgon producers who Kermit dubbed “the Gang of Four.” The espousal of Chauvet’s methods led to a dramatic change in quality of wines from Beaujolais and with that an increased interest and appreciation for the AOC crus, Villages, and regular Beaujolais bottlings.

The crus of Beaujolais are interpreted through the Gamay grape and each illuminate the variety of great terroirs available in the region. Distinguishing itself from the clay and limestone of Burgundy, Beaujolais soils are predominantly decomposed granite, with pockets of blue volcanic rock. The primary vinification method is carbonic maceration, where grapes are not crushed, but instead whole clusters are placed in a tank, thus allowing fermentation to take place inside each grape berry.

Much like the easy-going and friendly nature of many Beaujolais vignerons, the wines too have a lively and easy-drinking spirit. They are versatile at table but make particularly good matches with the local pork sausages and charcuterie. Though often considered a wine that must be drunk young, many of the top crus offer great aging potential.

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Kermit Lynch pulling wine out of a cellar.

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Inspiring Thirst, page 211

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