In 1981, Marcel Lapierre shifted radically from convention. He had met Jules Chauvet—the man accredited for starting the so-called natural wine movement in France—and begun to wonder how this new mentor's ideas might play out in his own vineyards and cellars.
It was one of those moments when an idea hangs ripe in the air, waiting for someone to notice. Something in the culture is missing, and no one can quite put her finger on it. It takes luck and genius to intervene. Marcel saw the idea and plucked it. Beaujolais would never be the same.
What changed? Well, the ideas seem obvious now, which is part of the process of a successful revolution. Additives don't improve wine, they mask all its nuanced potential. A commonplace now, but a dangerous idea at the time. The upshot is that Lapierre, in turning to non-interventionist methods, turned Beaujolais into a wine to be savored, even loved. He quickly found like minds (Foillard, Thévenet, Breton, et al) and the modern Beaujolais renaissance was born. What was once uninspired, insipid bulk juice bottled quickly and drunk soon, became one of the world's leading examples of the potential of terroir that is unlocked by simple, transparent winemaking.
The legacy continues today. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Marcel Lapierre's death, but his son Matthieu has taken up the mantle without so much as a hiccup in quality or continued experimentation. Simply put, in the eyes of our humble shop, wine does not get more honestly good than Domaine Lapierre. The Domaine's signature cru Morgon bottling is the best in its class year after year, and their straightforward Raisins Gaulois is our longtime go-to midweek sipper, one of the most consistent and successful wines we've ever carried.
Mattieu took control with a giant looming above him, but in no way does he remain in this figure's shadow. Instead, he has pushed naked wine to new heights (see the calendar here) and become a towering figure in his own right. The village of Morgon lost a great man four years ago, an innovator and a craftsman. But in no way did they lose the world he created.