Mathieu Lapierre – Le vin “nature”/”Natural” Wine

By Brian Lemay 5 comments


The definition is very complicated because everybody has his own
way of looking at things. I see it more as a goal. The word “natural” doesn’t define well the work we are trying to do. “Live wine”, non-interventionist wine … It’s been many terms. It’s a term that appeared at a time when here, in Villié-Morgon in Beaujolais region a group of 5 or 6 vine growers, a kind of gang, worked in opposition to a very technical style, and very fashionable at that time.
Therefore, the word “natural” was a definition in opposition rather than a constitutive definition. Their goal was clear, it was gourmet : make good wines that they liked. To achieve this, they quickly realized that the ancestors were not wrong and the traditional methods were often very interesting. However, in order for it to work well,
it’s necessary to have a crop that has a certain chemical composition, a certain biomass composition of the vineyard, bacteria, yeasts, and this phenomenon disappeared when agriculture became very intensive, in the 1970s. And in the Beaujolais region, many vine growers called on oenologists only because their crop had changed and they could no longer make wine by themselves. It was to depart from this reasoning that they initially worked in this way, without knowing that it would be the way of the wines called “nature”. It’s a path that other generations, of which I am a part, continue. Thanks to their work, their knowledges, and their experience. I see it as a personal experience, to go to the end of ones capacities. Make wine without inputs is absolutely possible. It’s sometimes very difficult, and we must give ourselves
all the means to make it. It’s a pretty interesting game, it’s a pretty nice way to look at it. And then, there is a poetic side : it’s said that this very traditional method will allow us to extract different and finer aromas, more interesting than what the technique can bring us. So, it’s a real commitment. What do you call “inputs”? Each year the list is longer, we will not be able to list them all. The traditional sulfites, yeasts, vitamins, products to acidify, deacidify, chaptalize, all the products of fining, all the products of intervention that will allow the winemaker to master the color, the taste, the acidity, the richness… They can be solutions in case of fatal problem, not to be against the technique,
on the contrary, but they are used in a systematic way. And unfortunately, systematism, in our work, is not good. For most people, the “nature” or “natural” wine, or “living wine” is a wine without sulfites … It’s because the journalistic debate in recent years has focused much on this. I think that, in fact, the presence of sulfites always removes a potential to a wine. A wine without sulfites, it’s a finer expression than if there were any. provided the wine is well. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can not. We do our best, with Camille, to have a chance to succeed. However, as in 2015, there are vintages where it’s more difficult. At that point, we chose to take action. And if we choose to take action,
it’s really out of respect for the gastronomic
quality of the wine, and have no deviances or diseases. So, sulfites are rarely useful, but sometimes indispensable. So, they are considered, in our estate, as a fire extinguisher bottle. for fires. We never want to use it but we are glad to have it on hand. Making “nature” wines is rather a goal, that we try to reach. We can manage. Pretend that a wine with a little sulfites is not “nature” would be
an easy jugement jugement on the winemaker who made it. Pretend that a wine that doesn’t have sulfites is necessarily good is a shortcut, because there are failures. I think the debate is more about the complexity of the process from A to Z, and the intention of the winemaker to reveal a gastronomic potential. Concretely, in what consist your job in the vineyard and in the cellar to produce « nature » wine? Concretely, there are 2 parts. I was a cook before. There really is a part that comes closer
to the cook profession and one that is farther away.
The one that is more distant is to grow grapes,
to take care of the vineyard. It’s very classic. We prune, We prune, like all vine growers. But the way we prune, we will be careful not to overload the vines, it is useless to produce too much grapes, especially the way we work, it would rot. We need to have a measured harvest. we try to cut in an axis so that the branches coming out of the trunk remain in a mechanizable axis, since we will plow. One always has in mind the idea that one will plow, that one will work by hand. So, grass is a priority. We will then manage the ground level and the grass growth. We will earth down the vines
at the end of winter, late February or March. Imagine that this is a vine stock, we will remove the soil that is at this level, inside the row, to cover the grass that would have grown inside, and to dig up all the lower part of the vine stock. Cold enters, and eliminates diseases. And then, the grass will start to grow back and we will slowly close the hole created with the mound that we created. This will turn the grass that
grows back over it. In the way we work, it’s the « organic agriculture » side of it, we need to have absolute control over the grass. So the best way is to control where it grows. Then, we will take care of the growth, we will take care of driving the vine, make it grow straight, protect it from the wind by treillising if necessary,
to avoid breakage. And then, there are the treatments. In the “nature” philosophy it’s important to preserve the biomass, have living elements, the antifungals are banned. There are a few that can be used, like sulfur and copper that are used in organic agriculture, but in a fairly measured way. Now, for example, we are in August, we are going to harvest
at the end of September, we will no longer treat. This part of work, that will last 4 months, is very intense. It looks like gardening when we work our way. It’s like going to scratch
the grass in the evening, all the grass that the tractor could not plow, we finish by hand, so that the grapes are as healthy as possible, as mature as possible, that it’s the expression of a terroir. Since the the vinyard is plowed,
there is no fertilizer, the roots go deep down and look for very interesting constituent elements and these grapes, on the bloom, are covered with microorganisms, yeasts and bacteria, that will participate in the fermentation. This is important because if you want to do a “nature” job, you should not
eliminate these elements. So, the quality of the grapes is important. And then, the second part is really going to be processing, cooking. In the Beaujolais region,
we make carbonic maceration : the grapes are left in conical wooden trunk-shaped vats for several weeks, 3, 4 or 5 weeks, to stimulate a principle. We are very lucky in Beaujolais region,
it’s a fairly easy way to vinify and to understand the technique of “nature” wine. This principle means that the fruits, once stored in carbon dioxide, will be protected from fungi or dangerous bacteria and the enzymes contained in the fruits will be stimulated by carbon dioxide gas and attack these fruits. In this degradation, the color will migrate from the skin towards the interior of the berry that is white. It will also extract many aromas, that are contained in the acids and that will be degraded by these enzymes. All the constituent elements of the aromas and the color of the wine will be extracted at that time. And during this whole process of carbonic maceration, if the hygiene is respected, if the grapes are well sorted, if the harvest is clean, there is probably no need for technical aid, neither sulfites, nor anything else. It’s a matter of hygiene,
this is the easiest part. Then the grapes are pressed into large wooden presses. And when we press, the grapes will give a juice that contains almost no alcohol. There is a little alcohol by evaporation of the juices that fermented
below the grapes, but it’s a juice that is a colored fruit juice and that has wine aromas. And the phenomenon will start. The work will become a little more delicate. Since the acids are degraded by the enzymes, as I said earlier, the bacteria will feel more comfortable, malolactic fermentation will happen and may end before alcoholic fermentation. And it was at this moment that in Beaujolais there was a very classic disease
called lactic desease where the wines became vinegar. Thanks to the work of Jules Chauvet and the winemakers who preceded us, we know today that this mechanism has subtleties, that there are symbiosis between the life of yeasts and the life of bacteria, and that it’s possible to conduct
an end of fermentation without using inputs. It requires a lot of self-control and mastery. It requires to want to do it, and it’s necessary that the game is worth it. The wine must not have a complicated disease. It requires quite a strong concentration, to be able to make stable wines, to be self-confident, to pass this stage until the wines, at the end of December, beginning of January, are finished. The maturing begins. There is much less observation to make and one can rest a little and wait before pruning. To break some stereotypes that are persistent on “nature” wines, one often hears that “nature” wines are made by vine growers who want to work less, who let things do, which allows them to go on holiday or rest a bit more. Can you explain how do you ckeck that there is no deviances and that the wine stays upright during its development phase? As you just said, there can be a lot of problems There can be deviances and it requires a lot of control. Much more, I think, I will not make friends by saying that, than to make more technical and classic wines. Technique and oenology will tend to bring us turnkey solutions, yeast, sulfites, vitamins. The fermentations happen quickly, we miss an important aromatic bouquet, but we also miss the problems and worries. So, to make wines called “nature wines” and master the fermentations, a lot of knowledge in microbiology is needed. We, at the estate, look at the cuvées daily and systematically, several times a day. It needs a lot of analyzes, eather smelling, tasting, listening, or doing analyzes to find out where we are in fermentation, where we are in the decomposition of acids, in the evolution of the rise of the volatile, see if we have a problem. To know when and where to take action. I think it takes more mastery to do without tools than to use them. I advise all young winemakers who visit the estate and who want to learn how to make this style of wine to first master oenology, science and all its elements in order
to be able to do without them. Unlike what one thinks, it’s not a job for slackers and stingy people.

5 Comments

clement37230

Dec 12, 2017, 6:50 pm Reply

Belle référence à Henri Jayer (12:28) : "d'abord maitriser l’œnologie pour pouvoir s'en passer"

Killumi Nati

Dec 12, 2017, 12:32 am Reply

Le domaine Marcel Lapierre, la légende!

Vive le vin le plus naturel possible!!

verfpoteke

Dec 12, 2017, 9:11 pm Reply

Amazing video, thank you so much ! 🙂

Antoine Bacquart

May 5, 2019, 12:57 pm Reply

Super vidéo ✌️

Roadfrit

Jun 6, 2019, 8:59 am Reply

Il explique bien !

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