DOMAINE LAPIERRE is an iconic winery in the Beaujolais region of France, its late owner Marcel Lapierre considered one of France’s natural wine pioneers, along with Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Joseph Chamonard (Isabelle Legeron, 2014, p183.
BACKGROUND | Marcel Lapierre took over his father Camille’s vines in 1973. At this time there were 7 hectares of vines, a mix of estate vines, plus fermage and mettayage. From 1981 Marcel Lapierre moved towards organics and sulphur-free wines, having met Jules Chauvet. In 2003 Marcel Lapierre’s father Camille died. In 2005 Marcel and Marie’s son Mathieu Lapierre returned to the estate. In 2010 Marcel Lapierre died (aged 60) and was succeeded by his wife Marie (see Château Cambon) and their son Mathieu Lapierre (06.32.04.41.87). In 2018 the name given for the estate on the website was M. Lapierre but with the marcel-lapierre url.
VINEYARDS | There are 13 hectares of vines across 20 parcels in Villié-Morgon (fairly homogeneous), of which 2ha are on the Côte du Puy. The vines are pruned to gobelet classique. Marcel Lapierre told me his father used the Vialla rootstock, but that when he (Marcel) replanted he chose Riparia Gloire instead. Since 2001 Morgon grapes have been bought in, with the Lapierre family buying the grapes on the vine and harvesting them.
BIODYNAMICS | Marcel Lapierre told me by ‘phone on Monday afternoon 17th November 2003 that he had recently begun using biodynamic methods on part of the vineyard (7ha of the oldest estate vines). This was a result of Marcel meeting Biodynamic wine consultant Jacques Mell in the late 1990s through Henry-Frédéric Roch of Domaine Prieuré-Roch in Vosne-Romanée (Burgundy). Marcel said he had been thinking for a while about trialling biodynamics, but it was the meeting with Mell which made him finally decide to buy a wooden dynamiser and start his first biodynamic trials in 2003.
ORGANIC PRACTICES | In 2003 Lapierre told me he used Bacillus Thuringiensis for grape worm; wettable sulfur for oidium, and Bordeaux mixture for downy mildew, plus Ulmasud® and Myco-Sin® for fungal diseases. He said he made compost from poplar chippings, marc and some animal manure.
WEED CONTROL | Marcel Lapierre told me his father Camille had ploughed with a horse but between 1976-1979 Marcel used weedkillers, but reverted to ploughing in 1980 using a straddling tractor (‘enjambeur’) for weeds under the vines and a normal plough for between the rows.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION | 2006 It was only from 2006 and under Mathieu that organic conversion began (from 16 February 2006 according to Agence Bio). / 2009 The first vintage with full organic certification (Ecocert). / 2016 All grapes, whether estate grown or bought under contract, are certified organic I was told at the Real Wine Fair 2016.
WINEMAKING | The grapes are hand picked. Marcel Lapierre told me he adds no yeast as the bloom is analysed at the local laboratory each year and he has very strong populations and strains. He had some cement tanks until about 20 years ago, but now apart from some stainless steel for decanting all the fermentation vats are made of wood.
RAISINS GAULOIS | 2015 No oak. Maybe 200 hl produced. Nice simple sweet fruit, fluid at the Real Wine Fair 2016. / 2016 From young vines in Morgon. Lovely fruit at the Real Wine Fair 2017.
MORGON AOC, DOMAINE LAPIERRE | “There is a long cold maceration here before fermentation, which begins in the classic Beaujolais style, continues with pigeage, délestage, a submerged cap, and a basket press, and finished in used pièces (from Prieuré-Roch). The resulting wine is dark and fruit-packed, the typical Morgon cherries of youth ageing slowly and rewardingly towards lighter, creamier strawberries with time,” says Andrew Jefford (2002, p113). 2009 Bright dark fruit but this soon faded into vinegar at lunch at Sat Bains, Nottingham on 31 Jan 2013 with John Atkinson MW.
Domaine Lapierre, Rue Rabelais, F-69910 Villié-Morgon (Rhône), France / Tel+33 (0)4.74.04.23.89 / www.marcel-lapierre.com
Andrew Jefford, The New France (Mitchell Beazley, 2002).
Isabelle Legeron MW, Natural Wine, An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines grown naturally (2014, Cico Books, London & New York).
Real Wine Fair 2016, Tobacco Dock, London 17-18th April.
Real Wine Fair 2017, Tobacco Dock, London 7-8th May.