Wines are inextricable from the people who made them and the choices these people make in crafting them. To give context to my two expert picks, I want to talk a little bit about the producers I’ve chosen for today, Beaujolais’ Domaine Lapierre and Patagonia’s Bodega Chacra.
In 1973 Marcel Lapierre took over his family’s domaine and few knew the legend that would ensue. Marcel’s life was forever changed in 1981 when he met Jules Chauvet, one of the most extreme viticulturists of the times, known for swearing off the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Chauvet made such an impression on Lapierre and several other local vignerons that together they started a movement, revolutionizing the winemaking in the Beaujolais–bringing back traditional practices of viticulture and vinification, stressing the importance of utilizing old vines to create wines that had depth and structure, subjecting grapes to extreme sorting, using little or no sulfur, and never chapitalizing. Marcel took his ambitions one step further by implementing biodynamic practices in the vineyards. Unfortunately, Marcel passed away in late 2010 but his legend lives on in his wines.
In 2004, third-generation winemaker Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, who is the grandson of Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta, the creator and proprietor of Sassicaia, purchased the first of Bodega Chacra’s vineyards in the Rio Negro Valley located in Patagonia, Argentina. A property offered an existing, though abandoned, vineyard planted in 1932, of gnarled old Pinot Noir vines, planted on their own rootstocks, head trained and producing tiny bunches of small, concentrated berries. Piero implemented a process devoid of mechanization, one that utilizes whole cluster fermentation, which is initiated spontaneously by indigenous yeasts, and the wines are neither pumped over nor punched down.
Once the alcoholic fermentation is complete, the wines are transferred off of their skins into small French oak barrels by gravity. These barrels come from three different Burgundian coopers, and only twenty percent are new. The wines sit undisturbed on their lees for approximately twelve months and bottling takes place around the first week of June without fining or filtration. The objective is for the oak, fruit and the nuances of the soil to marry perfectly so that influence of the wood is nearly imperceptible in the wine, and the vine and “terroir” are expressed to their fullest.
In great vintages Marcel would always craft a special cuvee coming from his oldest vines, and in 2009 he created what may have been his greatest wine ever. This is not your common style of Beaujolais by any means; it is one of incredible depth and complexity with extraordinary texture and balance. On the palate, it shows layers of blackberries and candied currants that are outlined by zesty citrus and spice with a hint of minerality; everything is wrapped up in the wine’s incredibly lengthy finish. Drink this utterly complex wine now or see it’s incredible evolution over the next 10-15+ years.
Bodega Chacra produces its Cincuenta y Cinco from vines planted in 1955 on their own rootstock, which contributes to the wine’s depth and complexity. The nose provides the seductive qualities of Pinot Noir: red fruit, sweet spice and rose petals. On the palate, the wine opens to offer a lush texture that unfolds and reveals beautiful nuances of black cherry, currants, and graphite which all remain through the wines incredibly lengthy finish.