At the heart of the natural wine movement sits Beaujolais, France. In the early ’80s Marcel Lapierre, a pioneer of the movement, spoke about traditional methods of winemaking and viticulture. Along with Lapierre, other local winemakers including Guy Breton, Jean Paul Thevent, and Jean Foillard, began to utilize old viticultural and winemaking techniques such as harvesting from old vines, hand harvesting, adding little to no sulfur, and abstaining from use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides. During this time wine importer extraordinaire, Kermit Lynch, dubbed these men the “Gang of Four.”
Following in the footsteps of these fine men is 4th generation winemaker, Michel Guignier. Michel’s winery is located in the charming Cru Village of Morgon surrounded by Roman architecture, rolling hills, and vineyards. Morgon’s appellation is comprised of granite and schist soils. This composition, along with Michel’s old vines, some of which are 70 years old, produce terroir driven wines with focused fruit.
On my recent trip to France, I met Michel at his house and was greeted by his loveable furry cat, Gus. Michel, along with Gus, took me on a tour of his tiny, musty, web covered cellar and shared wine from his recent vintage in barrel. Afterwards, Michel popped open a few bottles from his cellar for comparison. His wines are exuberant, much like his character, and range from simple fruit bursting everyday drinks to mineral laden, well-structured wines that drink great with a few years age!
After our time in the cellar, Michel was eager to introduce Rosie, his adorable, 2000 pound draft horse. Rosie and Michel plow his vineyards by hand and when she’s not working, Rosie relaxes and feeds on wild grasses and flowers.
My time spent with Michel was beyond memorable. His passion for natural farming and producing clean, unprocessed wines comes from the heart and speaks volumes about Beaujolais culture. The beauty of Beaujolais is in its simplicity. Michel and many other great winemakers are making amazing wines and carving a new path from this once afterthought of a wine region.
Curator, Court Wine Club