At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

Bernard Vaillé on a hill that had to be cleared with a bulldozer. ARNAUD BOUCOMONT

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

The Vaillés have brought up to date the technique of cups, four arms coming from the central foot which aerate the bunches. A.B.

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

On the heights of Aniane, the rock had to be cracked to loosen the ground. A.B.

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

Bernard Vaillé, now alone in charge, after having been in the shadow of his brother. A.B.

He was nicknamed “the Mozart of wine”. His suicide, three years ago almost to the day, left his brother Bernard alone in charge. They had inherited it from their winegrower grandfather who came to Aniane to take advantage of its fertile plain, fleeing the pebbles of the Bosc near Salagou. The two brothers only wanted one thing: to get back into the rocks! Story of a success story mourned by the death of its media figure.

Children have a spirit of contradiction. It’s annoying sometimes. The winegrower Louis Vaillé left Bosc and the hamlet of Salelles, a stone's throw from Salagou, in 1956. Fed up with stones and rolled pebbles. He found his Eden in the Hérault plain of Aniane, 25 km away, on the Grange des Pères estate. The land was richer there. He was going to produce more hectares there.

Louis came from a family of winegrowers. And after him, it was his son Alain who took over from Aniane. The land was so good that he also did market gardening and seeds there. Bernard, Alain’s son, started working with his father. And soon, Laurent would come to join them. But Laurent was not the boy to follow the movement without paving his own path. Without adding his grain of salt and his spirit of contradiction. He had dreams. He aimed high. And the plain did not satisfy this quest for altitude. Laurent had only one idea: climb the hill, hang the vines on the stone, the better so that they can draw deep down the moisture that is lacking on the surface. Go up first, then, to better go down afterwards. The spirit of contradiction, always.

When he learned that the two brothers were clearing land, Louis said to his son Alain: "They found nothing better to do than go back to the rocks? Don't be as crazy as & rsquo;them!". The father, Alain, can clearly see the bad winds coming, the dark clouds: poor sales, quotas, grubbing-up premiums. He does not upset his sons. And Louis, too, ends up making up his mind. "He accompanied us to plant. And then he was able to taste it, he saw that it came out good. He then even found that we weren't going fast enough. We had to make wine to earn our living." He had time to drink it: he died at 96 in 2006. Alain and Marie-Thérèse, the parents of the two brothers still live on the estate.

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

Laurent Vaillé, died on April 30, 2021, three years ago. CATHY SOUN

At the end of the 1980s, Laurent, the youngest of the family, had armed himself for success. He had asked his neighbor Aimé Guibert to take him on an internship. Daumas Gassac was exploding, drawing inspiration from Bordeaux and its grape varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon in the lead.

Prestigious sponsors

Aimé Guibert already had two trainees but he recommended him to Éloi Dürrbach in the Alpilles, who welcomed him into his home. Before, in turn, sending him to Gérard Chave in the Vallée-du-Rhône, Coche-Dury in Burgundy, Jacques Reynaud in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Prestigious sponsors, before the student rises to the height of the masters. This is how Laurent Vaillé was called "the Mozart of wine", "the magician of& ;rsquo;Aniane".

The Vaillés are also starting to make cabernet sauvignon. We look at them with caution. As this grape variety is not part of the specifications of local appellations, they stand apart: "It was not to play the ugly duckling, but because cabernet brings freshness and that we wanted it like that,” insists Bernard. The two brothers, rather taciturn, play their own part, sheltered from overly curious glances and overly exuberant fraternization.

Although they break with the strategy of their grandfather and father, they are not mad young dogs. Firstly because Dürrbach, Chave, Coche-Dury and Reynaud put them on the path. Then, because in Aniane itself, they trust a figure from the village: Paul Pioch, long-time president of the cooperative cellar, introduces them to Tourtou, a hill on which they will lean, collecting plots to build a wine puzzle.

"Everything had to be cleared with a bulldozer, insists Bernard Vaillé, to crack the rock, to loosen it. We both built the cellar with our own hands." Exit the cooperative cellar.

The suicide of Laurent Vaillé

Bottles are being snapped up at high prices…hellip; More than 10,000 € for the first vintage of 1992. And count on 90 € the bottle for recent vintages. A surge in prices followed the death of Laurent Vaillé, on April 30, 2021, three years ago almost to the day: "Everyone wanted to snatch up the bottles at any price", regrets his brother. Speculation, strong on the wines of the Grange des Pères, has only accelerated. "Laurent was fighting against that, I took over, I find it abnormal and aberrant that people buy wine to resell it while they pretend to be for great epicurean wine lovers!"

Laurent Vaillé left violently. He committed suicide with a rifle, to the head. Without a word. Without a letter. Leaving his brother stunned. Speechless. However, he had to get up and head towards the cellar. Until then, Laurent took care of winemaking and he took care of the vines. We had to do both at the same time. He had sufficiently imbued himself with his brother's knowledge.

On Tourtou, he gradually regained his senses. The shoes sink into the earthy, chalky limestone, tending towards brown and yellow. Or a few dozen meters further on in the harder, white limestone, cold stone. Bernard Vaillé couldn't find anything better to do. So every day he goes back into the stones.

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

It's Bernard Vaillé's turn, after his brother, to take care of the winemaking. A.B.

“I need to find a solution. We'll see. But for now I'll continue”

What was going to become the Grange des Pères after the death of Laurent Vaillé, at age 57 ? The question was on everyone's lips three years ago. His aura had made him a star of the wine world, even more adored as he became rare.

He was said to be a hermit, not easy, hypersensitive. He was economical with his words. His brother Bernard was even more so. "I was in the shadows. I know people were saying "Laurent, Laurent, Laurent”. He received customers. It didn't really mean anything to me, I have to admit."

Was the alchemy of barrels and vats, Laurent's specialty, going to be there ? Three years later, after two years of aging in barrels and one year in the blending vat, it’s the moment of truth: the first vintage, 2021, from Bernard Vaillé.

"All the professionals who tasted it during breeding found that it was as good as the previous ones, in the lineage of the Grange des Pères", rejoices the winegrower. There is always a vintage effect, variations, but the 2021 harvest, despite the drought, was correct. "We had rain at the right time, even if it wasn't enough."

Grange des Pères fans will know more at the beginning of May: the first bottles will arrive at wine merchants. The winegrower was a little late: the well on the estate was dry. Impossible to clean the barrels. We had to drill deeper. There is a lack of water in the vineyards, in the water tables and in the wells.

Bernard Vaillé had a weight on his shoulders. "It’was a challenge, it’it wasn’simple because he’s the one managing all that. It’s difficult to replace someone. The opposite would have been true for him without me in the vineyards."

At 63, Bernard Vaillé must now think about the future. "We'll have to look into it, but it took a long time to sort everything out, I didn't have much time to think. I need to find a solution. We will see. But for now I continue. As long as I'm in good shape. And then it keeps you busy." Don't think too much. Leave the pain at bay. Sometimes there is no shortage of time to think. It’s the desire. A year ago, he closed the door to speculation, he who already rails against those of his bottles: "I never had the intention of selling the domain !".

The rumor got around, he admitted, but became more annoying: "It’s someone from the corner who started that!" His brother had thought about it. "Laurent had perhaps mentioned that", he finally blurted out. But Laurent is no longer there.

At the Grange des Pères, the first vintage without Laurent Vaillé is about to be bottled

Bernard Vaillé: “It’s difficult to replace someone”. ARNAUD BOUCOMONT  

La Grange des Pères and its origins in the 17th century

A little history… The Grange des Pères was that of the Benedictine monks of Saint-Sauveur Abbey in Aniane, recalls historian Jean-Claude Richard. "It was built in the last years of the 17th century, in 1696, with materials from a tower demolished in 1694. This tower was located at the current location from the access door to the monastery."

The rubble stones were then used to build a barn… which no longer exists, assures Bernard Vaillé. His grandfather bought the estate from Joseph Joullié, who did not live there and owned a mansion at the entrance to Aniane.

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