French Wines: Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2010

Posted in wine of the month

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2010
Approximate retail price: between $20 and $30

Retailers for the 2010 Vintage
Hamptons Wine Shoppe
The Pour House

Retailers for the Current (and Similarly Excellent) 2011 Vintage
Binny’s Beverage Depot
Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits
The Natural Wine Company

French wines, like French fashion and cuisine, are best appreciated in their proper seasons. As we approach the summer months, everything wine should be springing up rosés, but what to drink when la Mère Nature is not cooperating?

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2010

The wine remedy to cure a spring cold is Beaujolais, the perfect compromise between a hearty red and a summery rosé. Not Beaujolais Nouveau, the barely legal wine that is released at exactly 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of each November. I’m speaking of Beaujolais, the region situated squarely between Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, too often passed over because of its aforementioned more glamorous neighbors.

Beaujolais has long been considered pinot noir’s stepchild since Philip the Bold famously banished the Gamay grape from Burgundy in 1395, making Beaujolais the Australia for Gamay grape convicts. Fortuitously, Gamay thrived on the granite soils of Beaujolais, while pinot noir fared much better on the limestone-rich Burgundian soils.

Beaujolais has 10 crus, ranging in style from light and floral to earthy and concentrated. This month’s wine, the Marcel Lapierre 2010, hails from the cru Morgon, a region known for producing wines more on the robust side. The Lapierre is no exception. The wine is layered with flavors ranging from black olive and licorice to cherry, raspberry and violet pastilles. For those of you who don’t like funky wines—that savage, animalistic aroma and flavor—be forewarned: I’ve opened a few bottles of this wine (all in the name of research, of course), and they have varied from no funk to full funky monkey.

This bottle variation, I would argue, is something to be appreciated amid mass-produced McWines. Marcel Lapierre inherited his family’s Beaujolais estate in 1973, an era when heavy pesticides and commercial yeast usage was common. In 1980 Marcel began following more-traditional farming and vinification practices: discontinuing synthetic pesticides, minimizing sulfur dioxide and fermenting with natural yeast. Joined by three fellow Beaujolais “natural” winemakers, this “Gang of Four” defied the large-scale practices of Beaujolais producers who at the time were enjoying great commercial success with Beaujolais Nouveau. In 2010 Marcel lost his eight-year battle with cancer, passing away at the young age of 60. The estate is now in the capable hands of his son, Mathieu, the fourth generation.

Ironically, in recent years, interest in Beaujolais Nouveau has waned, while demand for carefully crafted, well-made Beaujolais from the 10 crus has increased. It seems that the ugly duckling Gamay grape has become a swan, ready for the red carpet and her close-up, M. DeMille.

And who are we to deny this wine her day in the sun? Even if la Mère Nature has decided to postpone le printemps, pour yourself a glass of this Beaujolais, best served slightly chilled. The wine would pair divinely with a salade Niçoise or even charcuterie, its soft tannins marrying perfectly with a bit of salt and fat. Note that because the wines have not been filtered, even recent vintages will have sediment. Also, when faced with the wax capsule, do NOT attempt to cut the wax off first if you value your fingers. Instead, go directly through the top of the wax with a corkscrew as though the wax were not there. Your Beaujolais awaits.

Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes in Paris.

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