Grapevine Archive for Domaine La Grange des Pères

The Town of Aniane is neither remarkable nor indeed especially attractive. For years it was asleep, waking up only to vote in its Communist mayor and to harvest its grapes which were invariably delivered to the town cooperative.

It all changed when a new and independent estate burst suddenly on the scene. At first, Daumas Gassac was built as a retreat for its new owners trying to escape from the rat race. But then a visiting friend and expert geologist from Bordeaux remarked on the exceptional quality of the soils. Another Bordelais, Emile Peynaud, nursed the first wine and in so doing created a legend.

Today the “Terre d’Aniane” is a Mecca for winemakers. Chateau Cissac from the Medoc has a vineyard here, as does Gerard Depardieu. Robert Mondavi nearly came, but then came up against local rivalries and the Communist Mayor.

Laurent Vaille

Laurent Vaille of Domaine La Grange des Pères

The Vaille family was local. This was a respected, hard working family who had farmed a few acres for generations. What changed it for them was a son, Laurent (pictured), who had ideas of creating another Grand Vin.

He first came under the wing of Aime Guibert himself who soon sent him to another friend, Eloi Durrbach at Domaine de Trévallon and from there to Chave in Hermitage and Perrin in Châteauneuf. Laurent Vaille returned with cuttings from all these estates, rather like Jack with his beans.

Success was also pretty well immediate, but stardom did not suit this reserved family quite as well. The Vailles remain aloof, reserved and shy of the public gaze. Visiting is tricky and convenient ways of communicating such as email haven’t made their way here. Rather large guard dogs make their presence felt as one approaches the wrought iron gate. Crossing the threshold is a little unnerving. After all the dogs are quite large and Laurent Vaille still hasn’t said anything as we work across the pretty courtyard to the cellars.

At this stage heavy sweaters are put on, even at the height of summer, as these are the coldest cellars for miles around. The wines are tasted, grape variety by grape variety and it is immediately obvious that the wines are like no other; the mourvèdre and counoise for instance speaking as if from the grandest estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Meanwhile Laurent still hasn’t said anything, answering my attempts at conversation with at best a smile. The tasting is soon over. Back in daylight and twenty degrees hotter, sweaters come off. The dogs are back to escort me back past the iron gate.

La Grange des Pères makes exceptional wines. The whites, made from roussanne and chardonnay have both weight and finesse and in taste fall somewhere between the Rhone and Meursault. The reds, greatly influenced by mourvedre have spice and Mediterranean warmth. Both are better decanted and both gain in complexity with age.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Languedoc buyer