In Defense of Toil

In the summer of 2013 I spent more days than are immediately rememberable binge watching David Simon’s The Wire. For those unfamiliar, spend anytime in the restaurant and I’m sure Andrew, Jordan or myself would be happy to quote the entire thing to you (though viewing it in its original medium is the less demoralizing option.) Fundamentally, The Wire was a “cop show” — an ongoing story of life on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, as interpreted by writer and former Baltimore Sun police journalist, David Simon. It’s the type of show that pulls you in, deconstructs any semblance of functioning optimism you have about the prevailing order of things, and then grows silent and allows you to thank it for doing so. It is real. It is transparent. Above all, it is critically revered as a show that makes it near impossible to view any other crime drama without the lens that it has already permanently affixed to your eyes. This lens is essential for understanding the wines of Marcel Lapierre.

Marcel Lapierre was a French natural wine producer (a term which, perhaps to his favour, has confused and infuriated far more ‘serious’ oenophiles than myself.) In short, his view was that wine should be the result of grapes grown with no chemical inputs or ‘adjustments.’ In his words, “our idea is to make wine from 100% grape juice.” How infuriating. And while I’m far from passing ivory tower judgements on a complex pattern of decisions that each winemaker must face when deciding whether their crop (and livelihood!) is something they can gamble with, it deserves to be said that Marcel Lapierre’s decision gave us pure transcendental bliss, along with a generation of new vignerons making world renowned wine in his agricultural footsteps (including his nephew, the famous Phillipe Pacalet of Burgundy.)

While the “Gang of Four” (a moniker covering fellow natural vignerons Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet) may evoke the sort of débutant cachet typically reserved for the underground arts scene, the reality is that these four were actually — agriculturally speaking — conservative. Led by Lapierre, these four were outspoken critics of the changing shape of Beaujolais, their home, and while it can be fairly said that the 80’s were a strange time for most, these four had to live through the dismantling of their regions’ ancestral farming and winemaking traditions in favour of a cheap, mass produced, highly manipulated, to-be-consumed-immediately style of nouveau. How infuriating.

Armed with quality land in the Cru region of Morgon, Marcel Lapierre made his case. After case, until he sadly passed in 2010. He remains very much with us in the wines now made by his daughter/son duo, Camille and Mathieu.

It’s tough, or perhaps just unnecessary, to detail what these wines taste like. They are meant to be devoured. They envelope you. The grand irony is that it helps to not think of Beaujolais wine when tasting them — a humour that I’m sure is not lost on his estate. Functioning like the lens ofThe Wire, they have the potential to reconfigure the way you view wine altogether.

I found myself this summer strolling the downtown promenade on my way into Clementine, drinking from a bottle I’d just opened as I stared into the sun because I selfishly knew the experience was too beautiful to wait until I’d be able to pull Chef Roger out of his kitchen to join me. I found myself, again, feigning professionalism while reeking of wood glue and covered in a sea of Clementine’s sawdust, as a wine agent was gracious enough to bring a bottle into my home for me to taste. I find myself now, staring at a Magnum of his newest vintage and softly rationalizing that it makes more sense for me to wait until at least one other person is awake to enjoy it with me.

Marcel is important because toil is important. He advocated against an easier way of life. He made the wine that his global customers didn’t demand, and we are better for it. This is primal wine. Look it in the eyes and tell it wine isn’t cool. It will respond accordingly.

We proudly carry the 2014 and 2015 Marcel Lapierre ‘Morgon’, as well as Magnums of the 2015. It is available by the bottle, and by the glass. We are, similarly, proud to carry the 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux Saint-Jacques 1er Cru of his nephew, Phillipe Pacalet, again by the bottle and the glass.


- Evan Watson 12.10.2016