Tasted in Morgon with Mathieu Lapierre (with the key to the cuverie), 15 February 2018.
Domaine Mathieu et Camille Lapierre
Tel: +33 4 74 04 23 89
Domaine Mathieu et Camille Lapierre is the relatively new name of the previous Domaine M. Lapierre. Brother and sister Mathieu and Camille follow on from their father Marcel who passed away in October 2010. Mathieu had been working together with his father since 2005, and were joined by Camille in 2014.
In 1973 Marcel Lapierre took on a number of family vineyards around the village of Morgon – he was the third generation of his family to work them. The most formative part of Marcel’s journey in wine came around 1980 when he was introduced to Jules Chauvet. Chauvet was in the vanguard of a ‘new’ movement, one of farming the vines and winemaking in the least interventionist means possible. Chauvet rejected the use of cultured yeasts and also additions of sulfur during the winemaking process. Marcel had already adopted Chauvet’s methods 1981.
Today the number of cuvées depends on the vintage and as Mathieu says ‘the interest that the grapes will deliver.’ 50% exported from here.
I asked Matthieu if he would explain a little the working process of the domaine – it was already clear to me that the best work in the vines was paramount – the domaine has 16 hectares of vines that are all managed organically – likewise the emphasis on a very fine triage of the resulting fruit – but what comes next?
“All the 2016s were elevaged without sulfur. We start with 2-8 weeks of maceration in wooden tanks which we do for the enzymatic action – it’s a process that brings a very fine extraction – without most of the tannin. Slowly the whole grapes detach from the stems, leaving the small opening in the grape that can accept the yeast and will begin the fermentation. The grape-must is then moved to our large vertical press* and of-course pressed! But at this stage there has been hardly any fermentation so we still have all the sugar – this must is called the paradis. Then the paradis is cooled before being placed directly into barrels for very long, cool, fermentation that doesn’t finish until December – like a white fermentation. The wine will stay in the barrels for about 9 months.
“Up until the bottling we have used no sulfur during the process, and 30% of the production will also be bottled without sulfur. The front labels have only the name of the cuvee, the indication as to whether you have a wine with, or without, sulfur is on the back label – if there is an indication that the wine has some protection against variation in temperature, you will know that you have wine where a small amount of sulfur was added at bottling. I think it is important, indeed it is responsible, to make an explanation like this. Despite being the same starting cuvée, right up to bottling, the sulfur or no sulfur wines are two different things and the one that I prefer is different each day.”
*The old vertical press here has parts that date from the 1800s, but unlike the many ‘for display purposes only’ such presses you might see at other domaines, the wooden base of this press has been completely replaced with a beautifully produced stainless-steel analogue.
Matthieu on 2017:
2017 brought hail, of-course. The vintage growth began early and it looked like a very generous vintage in some places which meant lots of work given the speed of the growth. The hail came twice, both localised and with a venom I’ve rarely seen. Parts of Morgon and Fleurie needed triage to remove traces of botrytis – we had a really big team to do the fastest possible work. The volume was about 75% of a normal vintage for us.
Matthieu on 2016:
In 2016 we also had a little hail – but not like in 2017, it was less destructive. Was much, much easier to do the triage. So the weather of 2016 reduced the quantity but it also gave us great balance – I would be happy to have that each year!
It’s true that wines made without sulfur (even if they are later preserved by a little sulfur) have a similarity of aroma and flavour, and usually from the perspective of absolute purity and focus there is some ‘blurring’ of both aroma and flavour. I know of only two exceptions to this (my) rule of thumb, and that would be for the wines of Yvon Metras and here, the wines of Mathieu et Camille Lapierre. These are fabulous wines!
2017 Raisons Gaulois
Made from the fruit of young vines plus, in 2017, certain parcels that were hit by hail. Still ‘grapes with a gastronomic potential’ Declares Mathieu, despite generally being less than 15 years old.
A bright, wide, pure nose – beautiful. Dark-red fruited, plenty of width and purity. Really a fine line of flavour, long too. Pure, focused and delicious.
The largest cuvee of the domaine, before sulfuring, or not. Here without.
Deeper colour, more vibrant. Round but fresh, very fine texture, showcasing beautiful fruit. This is again, pure, focused and showing and extra depth of flavour.
This the sulfured version i.e. ‘Protected against some temperature variation!’
The nose here seems to have a touch less depth but a little more floral impression. The structure is more apparent here, but the flavour is layered, less round but absolutely delicious again. I would never have guessed that the sulfur was the only difference.
Vinified by sister Camille, this from a parcel in Côte du Py that was bought in 2011. There’s a little sulfur here as it’s only a small cuvee ‘So it’s prudent to make the protection.’
A wider nose of freshness and fine darker red fruit. A wine of volume and freshness. Beautiful purity, becoming more floral – it has energy and open deliciousness – grand vin. I simply love the purity here. Bravo!
‘The colour is stronger though it’s not something that we look for. They are the older vines of the domaine – 100 years old – but we only separate them when we think the wine will be sufficiently special. The previous vintages for this wine were: 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Ooh, that’s much deeper, more cushioned and again with darker fruit – this nose is almost textured. Super-wide too. Volume in the mouth, rounder but still with power and a frankly fabulous texture of cushioned silk. Melting, mouth-watering, approachable – wow wine.