Laurent Vaille – Grange des Peres

A friend of mine just posted this video interview at Grange des Peres, and it’s everything you’d expect. Laurent Vaillé is the enigmatic and reclusive winemaker at the heart of this property, and he would sooner kick you out of the tasting room than wax poetic about his wine.

This interview captures his disarming charm in the awkward silence after questions, in the quiet giggles, and so on. My kind of interview! Well done, Obiwine!  And I’m glad there’s some footage with the dad Alain too.  All very cool.

For the wine nerds

I often claim that I’m writing this blog for people who just like wine and don’t necessarily obsess over it.  So I’ll step back from that claim for a second and say that this next bit is very nerdy.  In my mind, there are several important Languedoc personalities around Aniane and two of them are pretty much direct neighbors.  There are certain overt similarities between their projects, and then they’re almost exact opposites in every other way imaginable.  And I am fascinated by this pair of great men.

From the beginning of the video, JJ Carré sets up how special Grange des Pères is, notably because its a Cabernet intensive wine.  Since Cabernet Sauvignon is not an indigenous grape varietal to the south of France, this choice forces Domaine de la Grange des Pères to abandon their French AOC status and instead be labeled as simple Vin de Table.  This is a truly rebellious move.

Vaillé alludes to his training at Trevallon, an estate in Provence that also works with Cabernet Sauvignon (with remarkable results!)  But whether we’re with his dad Alain Vaillé on the hilltop parcel of vines above Aniane or down by the irrigation canal with Laurent, I can’t help but notice the elephant in the vineyard.  The subject nobody is talking about.

The big reference here that nobody seems to be mentioning is that the direct neighbor of Grange des Peres also planted Cabernet Sauvignon in this area (in the 70s) and also makes an expensive vin de table with it.  Now, having tasted both of these properties, I assure you that they are very very different.  And I’m only bringing this up because there’s such a charming and unlikely dichotomy formed by these two neighbors.  A dichotomy which adds a lot of color to the region.

Laurent Vaillé is a quiet man, his answers to every question seem restrained and shy.  He’s known for being a bit reclusive and journalists often have a hard time getting in touch.  He’s not afraid to say no to a visit even if it’s a critic or other emblematic wine figure.  In his first vintage, the 15 hectare property only produced a few thousand bottles.  Grange des Peres is a remarkable wine that (whenever I taste it) almost always seems a year or two older than it says on the label (perhaps a sign of that elegance and maturity he refers to during the interview!).  And Laurent’s only forty something but he seems like a very sage winemaker with a lot of patience and an ability to wait quietly.

A few minutes away, you’ll find Aimé Guibert at the Mas de Daumas Gassac.  This neighbor is also making a top quality wine with its own style and flavor.  But even when I’m drinking 8 or 9 year old vintages from Daumas Gassac, I always feel like I’m drinking his wines too young.  And the man seems that way to me too.  He’s 80-something, but he’s still incredibly alert and bouncing off the walls at times.  His demeanor is so comically opposed to Vaillé’s that I can’t help but think about them in a room together.  Guibert is boisterous and press-savvy, and he always seems to have the right answer on the tip of his tongue.  Vaillé seems quiet and withdrawn, uncertain that any of the questions even have “right answers”.  They’re really wonderfully different.

And yet they both have this sort of steadfast, rebellious defiance about them.

Anyway, this has been a tangent, but I really hope it’s a fun insight into Aniane.  You have these two winemakers who both seek out excellence.  And they have totally different personalities.  But they’re both sort of infamous for being rebels.  It’s wacky.  I hope neither of them gets pissed off by this write-up because I like what they’ve done and what they continue to do for the region.  But even if it does irk one or both of them, I have my rebellious side to think about too. ;D

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