Domaine Gaillard

When he was 12 years old, Pierre Gaillard was caught plowing a neighbour’s vineyard with a horse. Unsurprisingly, he went on to study viticulture and oenology in Beaune, obtaining a graduate diploma in winemaking from Montpellier. Not long after graduating, he was working as vineyard manager for the highly-respected Guigal estate in Côte-Rôtie.

In 1981, he bought his first parcel of land, Clos De Cuminailles, before establishing his business in Malleval six years later. He created the Madeloc estate in Banyuls-sur-Mer in 2002, followed by the Cottebrune estate in Faugères five years after. Today, Pierre manages a total of 77 hectares.

In 1979, Pascale married Pierre and became a primary school teacher. She raised their three children as carefully as a vintner watches over his wines, keeping them out of harm's way. Up until 2001, she worked for the French Education Department, teaching children with learning difficulties or health problems. During the holidays, she would help out in the vineyards. In 2001, she decided to become actively involved in the management of the family's wine estates.

The next generation of Gaillards are similarly dedicated. One day when she was a child, daughter Jeanne was punished and, as a result, was obliged to go work in the vineyard. This experience triggered a passion for wine! She ended up studying sales and winegrowing in Beaune, and gained valuable work experience first at an estate in Burgundy and then at a winery in California. In 2008, when she was 24 years old, she acquired the 5 hectares of vineyards in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation and the 8 hectares in the Collines Rhodaniennes production zone that make up her eponymous estate.

Her sister, Élise, was born in 1986 and had already tasted a drop of Condrieu before her first birthday! During her childhood she showed a keen interest in wine, but was never drawn to the vineyards. However, in 2003, she began her tertiary studies in Paris but soon found herself feeling homesick for the countryside and for her family. In 2006, she completed a Graduate Diploma in Agricultural Engineering, renewing her links with the vineyards and the environment before spending 2007 and 2008 working in California, Wisconsin, Italy, Romania, Greece and Chile. Upon her return in 2009, it was logical that Élise was placed in charge of Domaine Madeloc.

At the age of four, Pierre-Antoine received his first tractor under the Christmas tree as a gift from Santa, and it wasn’t long until he decided to plant his first vine in front of the cellar. In 2010, he passed a Winegrowing Diploma in Burgundy and then set off for New Zealand to take part in the grape harvest in 2011. He worked there up until the Rugby World Cup and then returned to the fold.

Pierre Gaillard's vines are situated on steep slopes plunging down towards the Rhône. At Malleval, the earth is held together by stone-walled terraces. Here, his Côte-Rôtie fully expresses the decomposing schist that the vines grow in, whereas the Saint-Joseph, Condrieu and Côtes-du-Rhône wines reflect their altered granite soil.

Cottebrune’s steep hillside vineyards are at altitude, with the Cevennes in the background and a panorama extending from the Pyrenees through to Montpellier. The vines are surrounded by scrubland and forests and the wines derive their typical characteristics from the soil, essentially made up of brown schist.

At Madeloc, the parcels of vines are situated on terraces overlooking the sea. These terraces are surrounded by canals to evacuate any excess water. The estate’s Banyuls and Collioure offerings adopt the characteristics offered by quartz schist, mica-schist, slate and pelites.

Environmentally friendly grape growing techniques are implemented on the three estates. The use of organic fertilisers is adjusted to the vineyard's needs. A high planting density allows the roots to develop and helps to regulate the yield. The soils are tilled to allow the roots to grow deep into the soil in order for the vine to benefit from the terroir's natural resources.

Pierre tries to ensure that the phenolic maturity of the grapes is reached around the same time as their alcoholic maturity. The implementation of leaf-fining and green harvesting increases the exposure of the leaves to the sunlight, thereby directly influencing the wines' structure and colour. The wines must express clear and precise fruity aromas, with a profound colour and refined tannins.

At all three of the Gaillard family estates, the grapes are hand picked, optimal hygiene and controlled temperatures are used during fermentation and individual grape varieties and individual parcels of vines are vinified separately. Cold macerations are used both for the reds and the whites, as well as a degree of aeration to extract delicate and pure aromas. Where oak is used, it is employed early in the winemaking process so that its flavours are well integrated and they do not mask the characteristics of the grapes and the terroir.

The wines of Domaine Gaillard are great examples of all that is good in the northern Rhône Valley, offering excellent quality and showing off their distinct terroir and varietal typicity alike.
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