Posted on the walls of select Parisian wine bars is the wine world's version of a pin-up calendar—12+ months of harvesters and the winemaker posing nude at legendary natural producer Domaine Lapierre. Aaron Ayscough peels back the pages of Mathieu Lapierre's calendar.
Behind the bar at Le Bist’roch in Nuits are two curious items—things you don’t expect to see at a hardscrabble Burgundian natural wine bar owned by Domaine Prieuré Roch. One is a tiny version of the domaine’s wine bottle filled with white peppercorns from Cameroon, the product of a far-flung négoçiant project inspired by the owner’s wife.
The other is a bearded nude man with a jeroboam between his legs, beaming down from a calendar behind the bar.
The nude man in question is a harvester at Domaine Marcel Lapierre, which memorialized its 2013 harvest by publishing a nude calendar of harvesters.
“The idea came to us one night over some drinks,” explains winemaker Mathieu Lapierre. He says it’s fairly common for the domaine to organize some kind of project to document the vintage. “There had been photo shoots during harvest before, but it had always been for purposes more documentary than artistic.”
In this case, the artist was photographer Misenka Plantaznik, a regular harvester who hails from Slovakia. “It was meant more as a joke in the beginning,” he says. “I did a similar project during my stay in France as a volunteer for [French nonprofit] Solidarités Jeunesses and I was pleasantly surprised that it got a very positive feedback from the participants. So I suggested we make one during the harvest as well.”
Plantaznik used only available light, taking the photos in stolen moments between work, mealtimes and sunset. “In the beginning I was worried I would not be able to fill all 12 months of the calendar with pictures.” But as his fellow harvesters saw photos of the calendar in progress, more and more offered to participate. “In the end I had so many participants I had to make the calendar for 2014/2015 so I could fit everyone in,” says Plantaznik.
Just 100 copies were made, and given as gifts, says Lapierre, “to friends in confidentiality.” But in the same way that the hundred people who bought The Velvet Underground & Nico all started bands, the recipients of Vendanges Chez M. Lapierre all promptly posted the calendars on the walls of their public establishments, from Le Bist’roch in Nuits to La Pointe du Grouin in Paris.
The month of May features none other than Mathieu Lapierre himself, heir to arguably France’s most influential natural wine domaine. He emerges from an old wine press wearing only a smile, embodying—quite literally—the domaine’s practice of additive-free, “naked” winemaking.