Chez Pierre Beauger
I was putting off writing about my visit chez Pierre Beauger in early October of this year because, to be real, I’m still processing the evening’s events and the intensity of the encounter. Pierre is, for lack of a better word, an iconic character in the world of wine. He's someone who makes wines with no compromises that seemingly, and somehow, most sects can still agree upon—everyone from self-serious somms to amateur label chasers, to newly natty heads to the Japanese are after the stuff, and the fervor is not letting up any time soon, especially since Pierre hasn't let any vintages out since the release of his 2017s.
Pierre's wines sell for a lot of money at retail, at restaurants, at auction, or from private collectors—the price of admission is not low. On paper, $90 at retail (if you can even find a bottle) for a Pinot Gris from the Auvergne reads as borderline offensive if one hasn't the proper context, the open mind and heart, and most importantly, the money to drop. I believe that it takes all of these factors to go into a subjective experience of opening any bottle of wine that costs that much—that or a generous friend or two.
Mostly spoken about as a recluse, difficult and sensitive, a visit to Pierre is a notoriously hard one to procure. Right before boarding my flight from LAX to BCN in late September, I sent him a casual email with a little about myself as a musician and lover of his wines—nothing too over the top, nothing too fan boy—just some respect for and knowledge about his work and that I would be in the area for two days. I expected no reply. A week or so later, and a couple of days before the proposed date, I received this in my inbox:
Quand souhaiteriez-vous venir ?
On the day of the visit a good friend and I had a lunch reservation at Le Saint Eutrope in Clermont-Ferrand. Run by chef-owner and hilarious British person Harry Lester, Le Saint Eutrope is nothing short of a revelatory dining experience, and kind of feels like a coup. The front of house staff are all French and run the beautiful art filled room in a sleek and mostly austere manner, but the mere fact of knowing that one of the funniest British guys on the planet is back of house cooking up a beautiful storm shifts the entire perspective of the place for me. After what felt like a series of hostage negotiations to procure a bottle of Gamay d'Auvergne from Aurelien Lefort for the table, we sat down to one of the best meals of the trip (the squid 🤤). After the meal we joined the staff for some after shift glasses and were, admittedly, pretty lubricated at that point. We told Harry we were on our way to Pierre’s and he let us know that we wouldn’t be making it back for our dinner plans in Chassignoles that evening—he was right. With a little bit of time to kill we took the scenic route out of Clermont-Ferrand and headed towards Montaigut Le Blanc, a beautiful and tiny hillside hamlet located in what was once ancient Gergovia.
Resembling a paysan, and to be frank, an even more handsome version of Harrison Ford, Pierre Beauger is a large man with a deep and layered presence. Coy and shy, and clearly holding cards close to his chest, he simultaneously presents himself as a kind of joker or riddler who likes to play games, but within the guise and demeanor of a sensitive artist—this dichotomy is really felt in the wines. His Sauvignon Blancs are maybe the most bombastic drinks that anyone is likely to try in their lifetimes; tropical cocktails that hit you in the gut and fire all of your neurons at once, while his reds, Pinot and Syrah force one inwards, recalling childhood memories of staring at the stars on a clear night and daydreams long forgotten somewhere in the memory banks.
In what I'm now realizing is typical Beauger fashion (anything goes), we didn't even glimpse the cellar or take a trip to the vines. The entire visit consisted of us sitting at a table on Pierre's terrace and drinking wine and conversing for seven or so hours, while Pierre, clearly in a ready to drink mood, kept getting up from the table and going into the house to grab bottles. It was a completely surreal experience and just thinking about it now, here in LA, leaves me dumbstruck as if it were actually a dream and it didn't happen at all. If I didn't have some kind of photographic evidence, I probably wouldn't believe it, myself. At one point it started to rain and we raised the umbrella, and kept drinking. Carrot lentil soup and macaroni gratin also got served at a different point, and I'd be lying if I wrote that Pinot Noir didn't get mixed into everyone's soup at another juncture in the evening. As the magnitude of that many Beauger bottles being consumed in one sitting began to hit our bodies and brains around 1:30 AM, it was time to go. Luckily, my friend who had mostly been conversing with Pierre's partner, and not going as deep with the drinking as Pierre and I, was in a much more cogent state to drive us safely back through the forest to where we were staying.
There is a virtuosity in Beauger's touch that is veiled by the fact that these wines are so easy to drink. It's like watching a dancer or concert pianist perform so seamlessly and fluidly that you start to convince yourself you could do the same, but obviously, there's no way. These bottles are as singular as they come, and I believe much of it has to do with almost everything being completely done by hand, by Pierre himself, and with little to no help except from his ox. In addition, the entirety of the wines that Pierre now makes are from vines in which he planted, which is a pretty significant detail about where Pierre’s head is at in terms of grape provenance, and is something that I don’t think any other winemaker can lay claim to—who else is making root to glass wine?
For all of the freaks out there, this is what we drank and in this order. All bottles except for Champignon Magique were unlabeled and the cépages were written on them by hand.
I honestly can't believe I remember this:
Pinot Noir / Syrah
Pinot Noir 2019
100% Pinot Noir with no elévage, fermentation in fiber glass with a little residual CO2 still in bottle
Sauvignon Blanc 2014
100% Sauvignon directly pressed—I'm guessing this was the cuvée Not for Highway Use
A sweet 500ml maceration of Pinot Gris and pressed acacia flowers
Champignon Magique 2010
*I would have taken a lot more photos had Pierre not jokingly yelled at me to "stop tweeting" every time I took out my phone!