Marcel Lapierre Vin de France Raisins Gaulois 2015
In the northern hills of Beaujolais lies the pastoral Villie-Morgan, one of the ten cru villages permitted to print its name on the bottle, and also considered home of one of the best wines in Beaujolais. An hour from Lyon, the second largest city in France, Villie-Morgan is a century away in atmosphere. It is also home to a group of groundbreaking and sometimes controversial winemakers know in the US as the Gang of Four.
This group, informally spearheaded by Marcel Lapierre, strives to make wines as naturally as possible, in the vineyard and in the winery. Lapierre's vines average 40 years of age, and his grapes are always picked at the latest possible moment in order to obtain the ripest possible fruit. No pesticides or chemicals are used in the vineyards and no sulfur or yeast is added during fermentation. The resulting wines are pure and fruity, not overly alcoholic, and always a pleasure to drink.
The bucolic region often identified as the southern part of Burgundy, Beaujolais actually doesn’t have a whole lot in common with the rest of the region in terms of climate, soil types and grape varieties. Beaujolais achieves its own identity with variations on style of one grape, Gamay.
Gamay was actually grown throughout all of Burgundy until 1395 when the Duke of Burgundy banished it south, making room for Pinot noir to inhabit all of the “superior” hillsides of Burgundy proper. This was good news for Gamay as it produces a much better wine in the granitic soils of Beaujolais, compared with the limestone escarpments of the Côte d’Or.
Four styles of Beaujolais exist though most is sold under the basic Beaujolais appellation. The simplest, and one that has regrettably given the region a subpar reputation, is Beaujolais Nouveau. This is the wine that is made using carbonic maceration (a quick fermentation that results in sweet aromas) and is released on the third Thursday of November in the same year as harvest. It's meant to drink young and is flirty, fruity and fun. The rest of Beaujolais is where the serious wines are found. Beaujolais-Villages, which must come from the hilly northern part of the region, offer reasonable values with some gems among them. The superior section are the cru vineyards coming from ten distinct communes: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Any cru Beajolais will have its commune name prominent on the label.
Delightfully playful, but also capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines predominantly from Beaujolais. In Beaujolais, Gamay generally has three classes: Beaujolais Nouveau, a decidedly young, fruit-driven wine, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais. The Villages and Crus are highly ranked grape growing communes whose wines are capable of improving with age whereas Nouveau, released two months after harvest, is intended for immediate consumption. Somm Secret—The ten different Crus have their own distinct personalities—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is structured and age-worthy.