Guide to the Loire regions

Reuilly

Grower Profiles

Domaine Claude Lafond
Few men could claim to have saved an appellation from possible extinction, but Claude Lafond is one of them. He was training to be an electrical engineer until he promised his dying father that he would continue the tradition of making the family wine. He was 18 years old at the time. André Lafond raised cattle for a living, but planted 2.5 hectares in the 1960s to help supplement the family income. It was these vines, along with another parcel of half a hectare of Baco Noir from the maternal line which Claude inherited in 1977. André had carried greater ambitions as a vigneron, stating that he wanted to plant seven hectares of vines. Today Claude Lafond works 30ha, or about 15% of the Reuilly appellation.

Lafond is a diminutive man; quietly spoken, but with big ideas and at ease in managing and offering direction to his fellow wine producers. He probably should be in politics. It was Lafond who instigated the formation of the original association of the eight growers of the Chai de Reuilly, even offering land in the families back garden for the erection of the cellar. This initiative helped to save the appellation as it passed through a period of regression at the start of the 1990s, allowing it to become the significant source of highly reliable wines that it is today.

But the 2010 harvest was the last vintage that Lafond vinified in this facility. Together with his pretty and equally dynamic daughter, Nathalie, the family are erecting a new purpose built cellar right next to the Chai de Reuilly in preparation to receive the 2011 vintage. In her early 30s, Nathalie has been working with her father since 2003 and is being groomed to take over the business once Claude finally takes the decision to retire.

In addition to Claude’s existing interests in Reuilly, he has also diversified more recently into the Valençay appellation where he is responsible for producing wine from the three hectare ‘Le Clos du Château’, an impressive enclosed vineyard which, as the name suggests, faces the Château de Valençay. Also, in 2002, Claude started a new venture with his son, Sylvain, planting five hectares of vines in the Coteaux du Menoux, a long forgotten region on the banks of the river Creuse just to the south of the town of Argenton. These once abundant vineyards were abandoned after phylloxera hit the region in the late 1800s. The first vintage from their Gamay, Cabernet and Côt vines was in 2004.

VINEYARDS
Of the 30 hectares planted in the appellation, the varieties are divided into 18ha of Sauvignon, 8ha of Pinot Noir and the balance is Pinot Gris. Parcels are split around the appellation, but the largest single holding is six hectares of Sauvignon in ‘La Raie’. Other plantings are located in ‘Les Thaumières’, ‘Le Grand Pièce’, ‘Le Croz’,

‘Les Grandes Vignes’ and ‘Les Landries’. Lafond is also involved in a couple of joint ventures locally, the first being a consortium of 136 shareholders who invested in the ‘Le Clos des Messieurs’ vineyard at the heart of the appellation in the late 1980s. He has also made a dedicated cuvée for his friend and celebrated local chef Alain Nonnet of La Cognette in Issoudun from a single 1.4 hectare parcel and, since 1999 has also been in partnership with Gérard Chomette, owner of Château Gaillard, a modest manoir located in Le-Bois-Saint-Denis. Together they have two hectares of Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, with the wines released under the château label.

WINES
With the numerous plots of land and Lafond’s involvement with other partners, the range is large and somewhat complex. A single rosé, La Grand Pièce, takes its name from the parcel of the same name. The generic white is sold as La Raie whilst Le Clos des Messieurs is picked when the grapes are slightly over-ripe giving the wine a serious and concentrated edge. The Château Gaillard blanc is from 1.6ha of Sauvignon whilst its red partner comes from 0.6ha of Pinot Noir and was released for the first time in 2004. Les Grandes Vignes is an early drinking Pinot Noir and a limited amount of a barrel aged Pinot, Cuvée André, first produced in 2002, takes its name from Claude’s father.

An audience and tasting with Claude is a challenging although enjoyable experience and one has to respect the tremendous commitment he has given to the Reuilly appellation. The overall quality of the wines is very good, although they perhaps lack some of the personality of Claude himself, but as an ambassador for the region the man and his wines deserve to be considered as one of the most important reference points for the wines of the Berry. 

Domaine Claude Lafond
Nathalie Lafond
Le Bois Saint-Denis
Reuilly
T: + 33 2 54 49 22 17
T: + 33 2 54 49 33 94
F: + 33 2 54 49 26 64
Claude.lafond@wanadoo.fr
www.claudelafond.com

 

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