Marcel Lapierre, one of the giants of Beaujolais, passed away this past Sunday evening. And though his name may not be terribly familiar to casual drinkers of the region's famous wines, his influence is unavoidable, and, it can be argued, is apparent every time you uncork a bottle of serious Beaujolais.
"He and a group of three other producers [affectionately known as the Gang of Four] were instrumental in demonstrating to the world that Beaujolais had far more to offer than its often insipid mass-market nouveau wines," an obituary in The New York Times reported this morning. "Rather than these fruity, happy-go-lucky concoctions, Mr. Lapierre and his colleagues, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton and Jean-Paul Thévenet, produced wines of depth, nuance and purity that nonetheless retained the joyous nature of Beaujolais."
Mr. Lapierre's work not only raised the quality of Beaujolais at a time when so many of the region's winemakers otherwise seemed content to produce a fair to middling product, but he and his like-minded colleagues managed to change consumers' perceptions of the region and its potential for serious, age-worthy wines.
As Jon Bonne wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle, "A lot of bottles of Morgon are going to be uncorked in the next few days, with glasses raised in tribute. As another annual Nouveau-fest appears on the horizon, take a moment to reflect on Lapierre’s efforts as a symbol of wines that — in an ocean of falsity — spoke true."
The wine world has lost a legend with the passing of Marcel Lapierre.