Located close to Cordes sur Ciel, on the northern edge of the Gaillac district and the Tarn river, Domaine Gayrard has been established for nearly 5 centuries on an exceptional terroir and landscape dominated by oak trees and truffles. The property sits on limestone plateau at 300 meters of altitude and extends itself like a promontory near the town of Albi, occupying a land marked with a long wine-growing tradition, interrupted for several decades till the end of WWII.
In 1950 Maurice Gayrard began producing and selling his wines at the property and his domaine was then one of the very first producers bottling wine in the Gaillacois district. During this “age of the bottle”, the family vineyard prospered and developed to reach up to 13 hectares of vines.
The region fell dormant once again for a whole generation with people leaving the countryside for bigger cities in order to get better jobs. In the 90s, in the midst of a regional wine crisis and with the help of government measures to support winegrowers in their conversion, the vines were set aside in order to favor cereals cultivation and other crops. At the time the family property was extended to almost sixty hectares.
Since 2013 Laure and Pierre Fabre (Maurice’s grandson), a young couple of winegrowers, have devoted themselves to reviving the local wine making traditions and pride.
Little by little, the estate has been remodeled and updated with new plantings and the purchase in 2018 of old vineyards located nearby and belonging to the former Château Moussens.
The limestone substrate of the Cordes plateau has always provided the grapes with a mineral element, leading to expressive fine artisanal wines. The property, which looks like a small hamlet dominating the area, offers a rich biodiversity due the presence of oak and hazelnut trees at the foot of which truffles are the little local darling.
Cultivated according organic systems since 2016 and with Biodynamic methods since 2019, the estate extends over some 30 hectares:
8 ha surround the family property in Capendut on the limestone plateau of the Gaillac district (at 300m above sea level) with shallow and stony soils bringing minerality and freshness to the white and rosé wines.
20 ha located 7 km away in the town of Cestayrol on a deeper clay-limestone hillside, bringing complexity and richness to the red wines. These vineyards were taken over in 2018 and are still in conversion to organic farming.
On top, 60 hectares of forest, trees and cereal land are in conversion to organic farming.
In the vineyard, daily observation is key in order to let the vines express themselves with a more natural balance between soil, flora and fauna, using practices that respect the environment as a whole:
– varied plant cover, natural fertilizers, 500 preparations, etc. to bring nutrients to the soil;
– essential oils, herbal teas, sexual confusion, etc. to protect against diseases and parasites;
– Silica to strengthen the vigor of our vines;
All these practices are carried out manually starting from respectful pruning to manual harvest. On the rest of the property, the ownership has developed the cultivation of plants and cereals best suited to the land’s characteristics: truffle trees, olive trees, lavender and mixtures of cereals intended for our neighboring herders.
The domaine has recently welcomed beeskeeping in order to strengthen the fauna’s health and the natural crops’ balance.
The couple works as much as possible by gravity, thus limiting the use of pumps and preserving the grapes intact until they are pressed. Each plot is vinified separately to allow the most precise blending choices, according to the specific qualities provided by each of them.
No external yeast is used for the fermentations. The yeasts naturally present on the grapes’ skin bring to the wine the most sincere possible expression of the terroir and climate. Sulfites are added according to what is really needed and following each vintage characteristics.
The wines are fermented and aged in concrete or stainless steel vats and/or in barrels. Almost all of the cuvées are made from single varietals.
From the very beginning Laure and Pierre are committed to making known the ampelographic heritage of the Gaillac appellation. These grape varieties represent the local identity and their uniqueness is a key asset.
The couple has focused on the cultivation of Braucol, Duras, Mauzac and Loin de l’œil (a rare white variety).
Braucol is generally fruity, with just the right amount of character provided by its natural tannins. Braucol is the name of the grape in Gaillac, but it is to be found in several appellations in the South-West, such as Marcillac, where it is known as Mansois, or in Béarn, under the name Pinenc. And it also known in general as Fer Servadou. The name ‘Fer’ has its origins and meaning connected with the Latin word ‘ferus’, which means ‘wild’ or ‘savage’.
As of 2012 there was around 1600 ha of Braucol vines planted in south-west France. Outside France this variety is rarely found planted. Wine authority Jancin Robinson describes the grape varietal as untamed and wines crafted from Braucol are typically very dark in color, with rich wild berry fruit flavors, good levels of tannin and expressing a rather rustic-wild texture on the palate that carries through to a dry finish.
Duras is an ancient vine variety, thought to have been introduced to France by the Romans more than 2000 years ago. Today it is grown only in the southwest of France, notably around Gaillac, where it produces well-structured red wines full of color and good alcohol level. The typical Duras wine is generally a robust, rustic, full-bodied red with aromas of black fruits, dried herbs, fresh pepper and a whiff of smoke. It is arguably the archetypal wine of southwestern France, rivaled only by the Tannat-based reds of Madiran. The name Duras comes from dur, the French word for “hard”. This is a reference not to the wines but the sturdiness of the variety’s wood.
The Ideal planting of Mauzac relies on rocky and limestone soil and warm-dry climate condition. Since Mauzac is a late ripening variety, it needs enough summer heat in order to ripe even and smoothly. This white variety is home in Gaillac, although many ampelographers believe that it originated form Limoux in Languedoc. According to Jancin Robinson … “ It has a particularly distinctive smell reminiscent of dried apple peels. Its late bussing and ripening meant that it traditionally fermented long and slowly, still bubbling in the spring”. DryMauzac can produce a fascinating soft style showing pears and white floral notes. The variety is also responsible for sparkling wines and an array of specialty wines ranging from the off dry (Roux) to the unique piercingly dry Sherry-like Vin de Voile.
Len de l’El (also known as Loin-de-l’oeil, Len de L’Elh, Lendelel,) is a white French variety native to the South West. Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) regulation dictate that the white wines from Gaillac must include at least 15% Len de l’El blended with Mauzac, though there has been movements to allow substitution of Sauvignon Blanc (and since 2007 growers have been officially permitted to do so). Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, Len de l’El constituted more than 30% of all plantings in the Gaillac region. The variety is prone to rot and have been declining in plantings in recent times. Smart growers tend to limit plantings of the grapes to hillside locations with well draining soil and ideal air’s ventilation in order to keep the vines dry. The wines made from the grape are typically full bodied with low acidity but powerful fruit notes.
The Gaillac appellation is fortunate to benefit from a climate shared between oceanic and Mediterranean influences which offers the possibility of growing some other more renown grape varieties. Maybe these grape varieties are less distinctive, but Laure and Pierre like to offer them as single varietals in order to enhance once again the expression and identity on the local terroirs. They have chosen to highlight the Syrah and the Sauvignon Blanc which shows both great freshness and a marked aromatic expression.
Home to Southwest France’s oldest vineyards, the Gaillac appellation is located between the cities of Toulouse and Albi and belongs to a long line of “Southwest France Wines” which bring together 17 AOC and 12 PGI wines. The appellation covers more than 7,000 acres on both sides of the Tarn River. Gaillac’s three largest winegrowing areas are zoned as Les Terrasses de la Rive Gauche (left bank), Les Coteaux de la Rive Droite (right bank), and Plateau Cordais (the northernmost zone above the left bank). Today, one hundred independent wine producers and two cooperative wine cellars together produce 20 million bottles of wine annually. Here are some quick facts:
1.Gaillac is home to Southwest France’s oldest vineyards. The region’s 7000 acres of vines are located on both sides of the Tarn River, east of Toulouse.
2. The region has both maritime and Mediterranean climatic influences. The warmth of the Mediterranean and the humidity of the Atlantic converge in Gaillac. Combined with the warm, dry Autan wind coming from Central Africa, the region is a perfect spot for vineyards.
3. Gaillac has been making wine for 2,000 years. It was known as one of the two Grand Crus of ancient Rome’s Gaul, and a town just downriver from Gaillac was dedicated to amphorae for winemaking.
4. The Gaillac AOC for dry white wines was created in 1938. This was just three years after the INAO, the organization that regulates appellations, was founded. Today, 100 independent producers and two cooperative wine cellars make Gaillac wines.
5. Gaillac includes a full range of wine styles. While the appellation was once only for dry white wines, it now includes sweet, and sparkling whites, as well as rosés and reds.
6. Many soils add to the diversity of Gaillac’s wines. Clay, limestone, sand, silex, and alluvial soils are found in different pockets throughout the region’s vineyards, providing a myriad of environments for different vines to thrive.
7. Most of Gaillac’s wines are red. Over half of the wine produced in Gaillac is red, despite the fact that red wines weren’t allowed to be produced as AOC Gaillac until 1970.
8. Indigenous grapes are important in Gaillac. The ancient Loin de L’Oeil can make dry or sweet wines with fragrant fruit; Duras creates deeply colored reds with fine tannins and spicy tones; and Prunelart, a parent of Malbec, is rich and structured, with dark fruit.
9. A Gaillac wine may be a blend of several grapes or made from single variety. Principal varieties, like Loin de L’Oeil and Mauzac for dry white wines, or Duras, Braucol, and Syrah for reds and rosés, must comprise the majority of any blend, and winemakers are increasingly focusing on these grapes of heritage with new regulations. Other white grapes include Ondenc, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, while the reds include Prunelart, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
10. Most Gaillac sparkling wines are made in the méthode ancestrale. This ancient method of sparkling winemaking, in which fermentation is completed in the wine bottle, predates the traditional method and remains the primary sparkling winemaking method in Gaillac today. The wines made in the méthode ancestrale are produced exclusively with Mauzac.
In a nutshell