About the winery
"I don’t make natural wines but wines that are not doctored. The aim of refusing additives or being organic are mere tools in the process and not a finality."
Even in the midst of winter, large shoulders and bright eyes, enhanced by blond curls, make Mathieu look like an Australian surfer. And with that, as soon as he opens his mouth, his deep voice exudes savoury words as if each is being tasted.
This love of taste began in the Culinary School of Poligny where he learned to be a chef. His interest in the culinary arts was born from meeting chefs at the family domain as a child. When he left school he went to work in the specialist restaurants of Lyon. Then off to Paris with ‘loads of work and little sleep.’ One of the chefs he worked under said he needed to ‘go for it’ and ‘go for it’ he did. After working in a prestigious Parisian restaurant, he went off ‘knives in hand’ to the USA and Canada. At the same time he made wine in British Columbia in 2003. Wine as another hat.
All the time he was training to be a chef he used his vacation to make wine in Burgundy and the Côtes-du-Rhône. When he returned he studied in Beaune to fine tune his wine making. ‘Cooking teaches me to use my senses and I apply this to my wine making. I maintain a certain rigour in my work and can be somewhat difficult during the harvest.’
He calls himself a ‘merchant-wine-maker’ as he buys the harvest from the family domain, completing it with 25 to 30% of grapes bought elsewhere, in order to honour the ever increasing requirements of his clientele. ‘We give incentives if the vines are tilled, if the pruning is done in a particular way, if the producer is organic’. He has been working with the same producers since 2001. Trust does not exclude stringent controls. Such controls, however, do provide the occasion for spontaneous meals. He made his first wine in 2004 with his father and called it ‘Marcel’. That year, he rented five hectares bringing the domain up to 15 hectare shared between rented and owned vines. And until the passing of Marcel in 2010, father and son had always made wine together.
But the standard had been passed on. Mathieu’s vision differs to that of his father’s ‘I don’t make natural wines but wines that are not doctored. The aim of refusing additives or being organic are mere tools in the process and not an end in itself ’. Nothing has changed with the 2010 and 2011 vintages, made purely by Mathieu, apart from his discourse. And this is how he hopes to clarify what people refer to as ‘natural wines’. ‘They are ‘terroir’ wines, organoleptically unpolluted by faults or enological additives. That said, it is up to the wine-maker to estimate risk, trusting both in himself and his grapes’.
He doesn’t wish to be categorized as a ‘wine-maker who does not use sulphur. The vinification is straight forward: a ripe Gamay carefully sorted, brought to the harvest in small crates to avoid bruising. The freshly harvested grapes are placed in tapered wine tanks, and depending on the nature of the harvest, they undergo carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration. The fermentation begins. Carbon dioxyde is generated with the tank being closed though not hermetically. The length of maceration is dependent on daily tasting and varies, according to the vintage, from 12 to 26 days. When emptying the tanks of their matter Mathieu ‘smells’ the vintage. The wine is then placed in differing barrel sizes for nine months; the time it takes to give birth. The bottling date is written on each bottle. There are two Morgon: one with sulphur; one without, which gives a ‘natural’ wine. And so, each customer can choose a wine according to taste and technique.
On the bottle side, the ‘Morgon’ and ‘Raisin Gaulois’ (Gallic Grape) (from young plots or sites that have been damaged by the weather) are completed in certain years by a ‘cuvée’ Marcel Lapierre. For a sum total of 120,000 bottles of which 90,000 are Morgon. Export accounts for 30% of sales with 30% in Europe and 40% in France.
Fourth in a line of wine-makers, his grand father was one of the first to develop private clientele. And they continue to come to the domain even though there are no signs, and the grand children follow on from their parents. Mathieu’s mother manages Château Cambon, taken over in 1994 with another wine-maker from the village. His two sisters are not involved in the domain but one hopes to return in years to come.
A young father to little Margot (the ‘M’ is already there!), he remains philosophical when it comes to succession: ‘Having been left freedom of choice, I returned to wine so I shan’t push her at all but I will share my passion’. To relax, he plays the piano from time to time. And when he parties he plays percussion in a batucada. And there are many occasions to party, that’s not what lacks in Beaujolais. With Morgon from Lapierre, if you please!