I’m writing this at Domaine Gayda in the Languedoc, South of France near Limoux on a sunny day in March – its a tough life…
The Domaine is quite young having only started as a vineyard in 2001 and the winery only built in 2004. It is owned by Englishmen Tim Ford and Anthony Record but the wine are made by Loire born Vincent Chansault; and he does an excellent job. We tasted the full complement they shared a common thread of ripe fruit, roundness, freshness and balance.
The wines divide up into four categories plus the top wine;
- Flying Solo – entry level but local varieties, i.e. grenache blanc and viognier for white, grenche syrah for red
- T’Air D’Oc – entry level but international grapes and labelled as such, i.e. syrah and sauvignon
- Cepage – middle quality level, varietal wines and labelled as such
- Figure Libre – top quality and wonderful idiosyncratic local blends or grapes. The name kind of means going “off piste” and doing your own thing regardless of convention – which I think is a pretty cool approach.
- Chemin de Moscou – the top cuvee, syrah based and rich concentrated, complex and long
I’ve stocked several of these wines for a year or two now and tasting the new vintages today re-confirmed how good they are. what is more the chance to meet Vincent and hear his passion for the wines and to understand what he is trying to achieve brings the range to life.
Particular highlights for me were the 2011 Cepage Viognier, apricot fruit, nice richness and full body but still fresh and clean on the long minerally finish, really good. Also the flying solo varietal Cab Franc – surely marks for rarity alone – but this was lovely and savoury with leafy franc nose, complex again with the trademark freshness. I will certainly look to add some of the flying solo range when time permits.
Some photo’s below – cool wines made by nice people in a beautiful place.
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The following day we had the chance to explore more of the Gayda Vineyards. These are located in the Minervois La Laviniere AC. This is something unusual in the Languedoc as it is a higher quality subsection of the Minervois AC.
The vineyards are about a 75 min drive from the winery. On the way you pass through a large part of Minervois AC. The terroir is flat and alluvial. There are plenty of vines, but the quality is regarded as poor since the solid is basically too fertile for vines and consequently yields are high.
As we approached La Laviniere the ground began to rise. The terroir of La Laviniere is completely different to Minervois as the photos below will show. the solid is incredible rocky, the terrain is hilly and it is pretty dry. Where there is no cultivation the vegetation is classic “garrigue” with wonderfully fragrant sage, lavender, thyme and rosemary all growing wild.
It is interesting to note that in the Gayda vineyards you find lots of pieces of Roman amphorae roof tiles and other pottery fragments. Dotted around the landscape are many stone field shelters that date back to Roman times. Farmers would have used these to shelter from the sun or to hide from marauding tribes! It seems likely that in Roman times these areas were farmed and vines were grown. By contrast no vines were grown on the plains. The Romans clearly knew what they were looking for in terms of terroir.
The vineyards here are low yielding and of top quality and the grapes produced are used for only the top Gayda wines, i.e. for Chemin de Moscou and for the Figure Libre Series.