Little would we know that when Marcel Lapierre took over the family domaine from his father in 1973, he was on the road to becoming a legend. In 1981, his path would be forever changed by Jules Chauvet, a man whom many now call his spiritual godfather. Chauvet was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a viticultural prophet. It was he who, upon the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the 1950s, first spoke out for “natural wine,” harkening back to the traditional methods of the Beaujolais. Joined by local vignerons Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Jean Foillard, Marcel spearheaded a group that soon took up the torch of this movement. Kermit dubbed this clan the Gang of Four, and the name has stuck ever since. These rebels called for a return to the old practices of viticulture and vinification: starting with old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or none at all, and disdaining chapitalization. Marcel was recently joined by his son Mathieu, and together they took the natural wine philosophy one step further, following organic and biodynamic vineyard practices. The end of the 2010 vintage was Marcel’s last. He passed away at the end of the harvest—a poetic farewell for a man that forever changed our perception of Beaujolais. Mathieu continues the great work that his father pioneered with confidence, albeit on his own.
The methods at Lapierre are just as revolutionary as they are traditional; the detail and precision with which they work is striking and entirely different from the mass-produced majority of Beaujolais on the market today. Decomposed granite comprises most of their eleven hectares, and the vines are an average of 45 years of age. Grapes are picked at the last possible moment to obtain the ripest fruit, which is a trademark of the estate style. The Lapierres age their wines on fine lees for at least nine months in oak foudres and fûts ranging from three to thirteen years old. These wines are the essence of Morgon: bright, fleshy fruit with a palatable joie de vivre that was undoubtedly inherited from their creator. In the words of KLWM salesperson Sam Imel, “They are meant to be devoured.”