Picture this: Two giant tents in the middle of the vines, with a lovely lake just nearby. Then add 4 massive pigs on a rotisserie. Oh, and how about huge tanks of 2009 Morgon, so much that even a thousand natural wine guzzlers couldn't polish it all off? Ok, then add on top two great rock bands, a set-break with a Villié-Morgon-populated, 40 person drum band, and a crowd of dancing onlookers. How much would you pay for this natural wine festival? 50 bucks? More? How's free sound? That's right, Marcel Lapierre is so generous he throws this party every year around Bastille day for free!
In an earlier post, I tried to describe the spirit and joie de vivre involved in working the harvest with the Lapierres. This is something that doesn't really communicate itself when you open a bottle of their flowery-scripted, wax-topped, fancy-looking wine. But next time you pop open a bottle, I hope maybe this article will put a different spin on it for you. Because this wine really is meant to celebrate with friends, and heck, even total strangers.
First, let me start by introducing the lovely and talented Kristin Sazama, pictured above. Here's a little video of Kristina and I made to give you the flavor of what was going on at this bash:
So the big tank was being used to fill the little kegs, which were placed at each table for easy access. Plenty of glasses were on hand, and whenever you wanted you could just head over and fill up in a couple seconds. The wine had a little bit of spritz to it, because its yet to be bottled, and as I've explained before, natural winemakers often like to keep a blanket of CO2 in the tank to help protect the wine from oxygen. Some people, including me, like the taste and feel of that spritz. Others, like Phil Sareil of Kermit Lynch fame, prefer to use another special technique to get the spritz out:
Ever wonder what it looks like when 4 cooked pigs get butchered?
These chefs made short work of these beasts. I've been lucky enough to have a few whole roasted pigs in my time, but this was the only one I had in France, and I have to say that the style really showcased the flavor of the pig itself, in a simple, one might say natural, way. It was seasoned perfectly with plenty of salt, but there weren't a lot of herbs or spices to get in the way of that beautiful piggy flavor. They had been smoked all day over coals inside a box-like contraption that had a rotisserie spit inside it, but there was just the subtlest hint of smoky flavor going on here, nothing compared to the firepower of American BBQ. The meat was just wonderfully tender and juicy, a perfect compliment to the copious quantities of 09 Morgon flowing all around us.
How about some music?
Looks like a rock concert right? Between set breaks, the local drum band (what, Villié Morgon, a teensy weensy country town has a whole drum band 40 people large?) played a killer set that had everyone up and dancing.
In fact if you look closely, you might spot the two Lapierre children, Mathieu and Camille, banging away. Here's a little taste (for those who are wondering, yes the smiling blond woman to the left is Marie Lapierre, Marcel's husband):
Well, maybe it all sounds a bit cacophonous on the video, but I assure you, live, it was amazing and remarkably well coordinated, even though it seemed to be 100 percent improvisational.
The party was also a who's who of natural winemakers--Philippe Bornard, Thierry Puzelat, Pierre Overnoy, Jean Foillard, Yves Métras-- you name it, they were there. And everyone was really really friendly. This isn't normal for France. But in the natural wine scene, it is pretty normal. The party started around 3 in the afternoon, and stretched on and on, throughout and after dinner, until the wee hours of the morning.
Why does Marcel do this, you might ask? I can't even begin to fathom what it might cost to put on a party like this. Is it some kind of marketing strategy? Does he use it to wine and dine important clients? Definitely not. Most of the people there were just locals stopping by to party. I think he does it because he's just a really nice guy, who likes to have fun with his friends. This is pretty typical of most of the natural winemakers I've met. You really feel welcome there, which is really saying something when you're in France.