Guide to the Loire regions

Côte Roannaise

Grower Profiles

Paul Lapendéry & Fils
The Lapendéry domaine sits on top of its own little slope between the villages of Ambierle and Saint-Haon. It’s one of the most picturesque settings of anywhere along the Roannaise slope - even if the sight evokes images of middle Italy or of a traditional bodega in La Rioja.

The Lapendéry’s are an old Saint-Haon family, with a history of raising cattle (a cousin still does) and as foresters. Paul Lapendéry’s father established the domaine when he planted the first vines in the late 1920s. The flat cap wearing, sabot shod Paul first made wine himself in 1954. During his time as President of the Association Vinicole Roannaise, he was responsible, in 1972, (at a time when Robert Sérol was probably still in short trousers, but already wearing a trilby) for submitting the first documents to the INAO for the promotion of the Côtes Roannaise to Appellation Contrôlée status. Simultaneous to this, he was also lobbying for a single cru system, which would, of course, have included his own distinguished site. 

There are six hectares here, and unusually, they are planted with a high proportion of Pinot Noir. These were established by Paul in the early 1960s, and were blended with around one-third Gamay to make a local version of Passetoutgrains. It is also said that he would also add a few percent of Chardonnay, to help add a little bit of refinement. Ironically, when the INAO did draw up legislation for the appellation in the early 1990s they excluded Pinot Noir completely, its use being confined to that of Vin de Pays d’Urfé. Paul was said to be devastated at the decision.

The vineyards here are steep and follow the contours of the winding slope, even when it curves round into a north facing gully, and this is one of the rare instances where terraced vines can be encountered in the appellation. Yields here are painfully low; just 20 to 25hl/ha in an average year, and less in poor vintages, like 2007. The oldest vines go back to the original plantings in the 1920s, although with the inclusion of the hectare and a half of Pinot Noir, the average age is around 35 years. Needless to say, the grapes are all harvested by hand.  

Paul Lapendéry died in 2007 and was succeeded by his son Francisque, whose work is still closely scrutinised by Mme. Lapendéry, who looks well into her eighties.

The winemaking style here is the antithesis of the wines made by the likes of Robert Sérol; unashamedly traditional with grapes destemmed and processed in an ancient horizontal basket press. There is no evidence of carbonic maceration or fancy thermovinification machines here; the only concession to modern winemaking is the sight of a couple of stainless steel tanks, used for fermentation and blending. Pigeage is manual and the wines are committed to a one year sojourn in ancient foudres made of Tronçais forest oak, sited in a seven metre deep, cobweb-encrusted cellar hewn out of the granite.

There are essentially two wines produced here; a single Côte Roannaise red and the Pinot Noir, now necessarily declassified to Vin de Pays d’Urfé. The location of the cellar above the plain, the contoured vineyards and the ancient rock cellar make Domaine Lapendéry a special place to see, but sadly, the wines fall well short of the romantic image on display – both rustic and (I suspect due to the wood) dried out. It’s a great shame.  

Francisque Lapendéry
La Roussellière
T: + 33 4 77 64 43 43

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