Marcel Lapierre Vin de France Raisins Gaulois 2018
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.
A small category representing the wines that either fall outside of appellation lines or don’t subscribe to the law and traditions set forth by the French government within certain classified appellations, “Vin de France” is a catch-all that includes some of the most basic French wines as well as those of superior quality. The category includes large production, value-driven wines. It also includes some that were made with a great deal of creativity, diligence and talent by those who desire to make wine outside of governmental restrictions. These used to be called Vin de Table (table wine) but were renamed to compete with other European countries' wines of similar quality.
Delightfully playful, yet at its best capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines from Beaujolais and parts of the Loire Valley. While it has received some criticism for its role in Beaujolais Nouveau—a decidedly young, charming and fruit-driven wine—the Gamay grape is very capable of producing serious wines. The variety is also widely planted in Savoie, Valle d'Aosta and Switzerland, and has recently found success on a small but growing scale in Oregon.
In the Glass
In its simplest form as Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine released just a couple of months after harvest, Gamay is fresh and full of cranberry and cherry candy flavors. But Gamay is capable of much more. The region of Beaujolais is divided into Villages and Crus, where granite-rich soils and conditions are perfect for Gamay. The Villages and Crus wines, given more time on the vine and in the winery, are capable of improving with age and offer dark blackberry or ripe cherry flavors with enticing aromas of baking spice, violets and dark wet earth.
Gamay is delicious on its own; the simpler bottling can even benefit from a light chill before serving. It is the quintessential picnic red and goes well with simple charcuterie, country pâté and terrines. Gentle tannins and bright acidity make it a great option with Asian food, even dishes with a bit of spice. Gamay is also great with poultry, especially duck or Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry sauce.
Within Beaujolais, there are ten different Crus, or highly ranked grape-growing communes. Each one has its own distinct personality—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is serious, structured, and age-worthy, capable of rivaling some red Burgundies.