Les Vinifilles: Girl Power in the Languedoc-Roussillon
In France, where wineries are handed down generation to generation, it can be hard to break into the industry. But the exclusivity of these well-established areas is turning out to be a good thing for the Languedoc-Roussillon, reinvigorating this somewhat forgotten wine region in the south of France. In the last few decades, there has been an influx of new vintners (either new to the region or new to winemaking) and they are bringing with them both quality and excitement. Nowhere is this energy more apparent than with Les Vinifilles (translated as “wine girls”), a trade organization of women formed to support one another and celebrate the “culture of wine.”
On their website, Les Viniflles describe themselves as “beautiful, rebellious, active, food-loving, likeable, sociable and lively.” This infectious excitement and enthusiasm, for wine and for each other, is how our Buyer Keith Mabry progressively discovered the wines and brought them into K&L.
Originially, Keith was introduced to Les Vinifilles through his friend Francoise Antech-Gazeua of Maison Antech (one of our sparkling wine producers from Limoux). From Francoise, he was introduced to Marie Chauffray of Domaine de la Reserve d’O and Sophie Guiraudon of Clos de ‘Anhel. From these two, he met Pascale Riviere from La Jasse Castel. And it continues - through organized trade events and friendly recommendations, these women help each other thrive in the wine industry.
Currently, the group is made up of 18 wine owners. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, which range from the more experienced winemakers to the self-proclaimed “Generation Zero” vintner. What they share is an incredible passion for the land and the wines, and there is no better place to apply that energy. This region, which had fallen into a rut of mediocre wine a few decades back, is now the land of opportunity, and these women are taking full advantage. They are bringing fresh techniques and practices to vineyards that have history but have lacked stewardship. Many of them have introduced sustainable and biodynamic practices, as well as bringing yields down and improving winemaking technology. The results are exciting.
At K&L, we are fortunate to work with five producers from the group. Each one has completely charmed us, both in the quality of the wines and as a person.
Francoise Antech-Gazeua of Maison Antech is the matriarch of the group and well established in the region. The Antech estate stretches back several centuries, and Francoise is the sixth generation to run the family estate in Limoux. Antech makes several sparkling wines, including Crémant de Limoux, Blanquette de Limoux and Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale. Francoise joined her father and her uncle in 1996 and since then has made strides in improving sustainable and agricultural practices in the vineyard and in winemaking. Through Francoise, we have been introduced to several other Vinifilles.
Marie Chauffray of Reserve d’O used to run a wine shop, but she always dreamed of making her own wine. After ten years of searching, she found her perfect plot overlooking the Hérault valley within the Terrasses du Larzac appellation. The hillside vineyard sits on a bed of limestone and gravel planted mainly to Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Two years after purchasing her vineyard (in 2005), she converted to biodynamic farming. Today the vines are carefully tended with no chemicals and meticulous vineyard management, producing beautifully styled wines. We carry several of her wines:
Sophie Guiradon of Clos de l’Anhel calls herself “Generation Zero.” With no prior family history in the business, she has propelled herself forward merely by her singular passion for wine. After working in other peoples’ wineries for years, she took that leap of faith and purchased a humble estate in Corbieres in 2000. She readily admits, “I chose a life full of pleasures, doubts, joys, questions, successes, errors and satisfactions …” Like many of her cohorts, she is devoted to organic and biodynamic farming. She currently makes three wines that we carry:
Severine Bourrier of Chateau de l’Ou has a background in winemaking though no family history in the business. She studied oenology and worked in Bordeaux for ten years before purchasing her 38 ha. estate in Roussillon with her husband in 1998. She chose the name l’Ou, which means “egg” in Catalan, based on the shape of her valley and its symbolism for life and completeness. She and her husband mainly grow Syrah, but also have regional varieties like Grenache and Carignane. For white grapes, they grow Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Muscat and Chardonnay. A self-professed perfectionist, she is serious in her pursuit of new ideas, methods and practices and this dedication is evident in her wines, which are lovely. We currently have her Rosé but are expecting her Grenache and Syrah later this year. Read more about Severine and her recent visit to LA.
Pascale Riviere of La Jasse Castel is a former wine journalist and teacher turned winemaker. She recounts, “In theory, there was no particular reason why I should become a winemaker, yet everything led me to this…” It is easy to understand when you see her vineyard. The domaine is divided into six vineyards around the village of Montpeyroux, planted to Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and old Carignan. Low-yielding and organic since 2008, the grapes have a deep concentration and richness. At K&L, we are just finishing up with her current releases and will not have the new vintages until later this year.