Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2009
While I feature a lot of wines from the Loire Valley here in my Weekend Wine reports, peppered with the occasional bottled from Bordeaux as well as rare forays into Champagne and Port and the like, it is a very long time since I allowed myself to be distracted by a bottle from the Beaujolais region. This week, given the fact that July isn’t the month when Beaujolais Nouveau would turn such a diversion into a cliché (one which is almost as tiresome as the ‘rosé for summer’ articles that litter the Sunday supplements at this time of year), it seems like the perfect moment to pop the cork. Once I have chipped away at the wax capsule, with the usual limited degree of success, that is.
Marcel Lapierre (1950 – 2010) has to have been one of the Beaujolais region’s greatest vignerons. He took over the running of the family domaine from his father in 1973, but his tenure was not one of merely filling his father’s shoes. Instead, inspired by the work of Jules Chauvet (1907 – 1989), who was half-vigneron, half-chemist, half-négociant and half-revolutionary (yes I know that is a lot of halves), he and a band of like-minded growers including the likes of Jean-Paul Thévenet and Jean Foillard set about changing their philosophies, their domaines, their region and ultimately perhaps the entire world of wine. They spearheaded a movement to reduce interventions in vineyard and cellar, one which would eventually snowball to created a new concept in wine, the notion that it could be ‘natural’.
Marcel Lapierre died in 2010, leaving the domaine to his children, Mathieu and Camille. The 2009 vintage, featured here, was not quite his last, as he passed away as the 2010 harvest drew to a close. Today Mathieu and Camille continue to run the domaine in the same manner as their father did, although quite rightly they have not shied away from developing and expanding it, for example with the purchase of a further small parcel of vines on the prestigious Côte du Py. The approach to viticulture remains organic as it was in Marcel’s time, though, so I guess the really important stuff hasn’t changed.
The freshly picked fruit is vinified in wooden tronconic vats with a little carbonic maceration at first, as the enzymes in the intact berries get to work on the sugars. After a few days the yeast-driven fermentation gets going though, and thereafter there follows a traditional fermentation. After a few weeks of fermentation and maceration the new wine is run off into old oak barrels. Its all very traditional; perhaps the most idiosyncratic feature is the fashioning of two parallel domaine cuvées, in both sulphite-protected and sulphite-free versions, as indicated by ‘S’ or ‘N’ on the back label. This particular 2009 Morgon (a sulphite-protected version) from Marcel Lapierre displays a bright cherry red hue, belying its age. The aromatics are just delightful, with notes of smoked blackberry, black cherry leaf and currant, a little herby and leathery and yet it shows a cool and minerally edge too. The palate is fresh and pure, cool and again a little leathery, but it still feels sweet and bright, with seams of peppery tannin which provide good structure. This is charming, vivacious, delicately sinewy, vibrant and long, and it is a great example of maturing Gamay which wears its age very lightly. 93/100 (22/7/19)
Read more in:
- My guide to Gamay (with a Loire slant, naturally)