Terroir and Technique in Beaujolais

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Mathieu Lapierre on what's important-- and 'natural'-- in wine

Marcel Lapierre was known for two things: producing delicious, aromatic Beaujolais wines on his family’s home turf of Morgon and pioneering a “natural” style of winemaking from the 1980s on.

Since Marcel’s death in 2010, his son, Mathieu, has filled big shoes, carefully making wines that are often sulfur-free until bottling and that frequently score 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator blind tastings.

What has he changed? Nothing, says Lapierre, 35, other than expanding his cellars for more storage and bottling space. What then is the most important element of his winemaking?

“Today, Morgon is more of a gauge of quality than ‘natural,’” he says on a clear frozen winter’s day in the appellation’s gently rolling granitic hills. “It is too bad that many vignerons think the opposite.”

In other words, terroir is more important than technique.

When his father rejected many winemaking practices of his day for a “non-interventionist” approach, he did it because “he didn’t want to use techniques that diminished the gastronomic potential and flavors of the wine.”

Lapierre waxes enthusiastic about the violet, raspberry and licorice flavors he finds in the Gamay wines grown in Morgon. Then he laments that many of his peers put the “natural” style first...read the full blog (free) at winespectator.com