Terroir Talk: Alain Graillot’s Beginnings, Philosophy, & Projects

Terroir Talk: Alain Graillot's Beginnings, Philosophy, & Projects

It had been ten years since Alain Graillot had been to New York when I spent three days with him in early March, just before the pandemic; he was in town for our 2020 Grand Portfolio Tasting and 20th Anniversary of La Paulée. Prior to his arrival we made plans for tastings and dinners with Alain insisting, “David, remember I am coming to work!”

There are a few people in the wine world as kind, generous, and that wield his level of knowledge and history. He’s got the energy and passion of someone in his 30s and with his two talented sons now fully in charge he’s ‘retired’, but as he puts it, “… it really means I can now do mostly what I want!” He was part of the driving force behind the family project in Fleurie, Domaine de Fa, and when I want to come by last-minute for a visit and tasting on a Sunday at the Domaine in Crozes it’s usually Alain that volunteers to meet me at the cellar.

The interview we did was an opportunity to spend time with a legend and the thoughtful conversation that spanned many countries and wine regions is something I will never forget. We were able to talk about his beginnings, philosophy and every project he and his sons have going in the Northern Rhône, Beaujolais, Bierzo, and Morocco.

Beginnings & Winemaking Philosophy

Crozes-Hermitage

Crozes-Hermitage, Alain Graillot

  • 100% Syrah
  • 30+ year old vines
  • From the villages of La Chene Verts
  • 100% whole cluster
  • Indigenous yeast
  • Fermented in concrete
  • Aged in 1-3 year old barrels

Crozes-Hermitage Blanc

Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, Alain Graillot

  • 80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne
  • 35+ year old vines
  • Very rocky gravel soils
  • Indigenous yeasts
  • No malo
  • 50% aged in 1 year old Burgundy barrels, 50% aged in tank

Domaine de Fa

Beaujolais ‘En Besset’, Domaine de Fa [A. & M. Graillot]

  • Certified organic, in conversion to biodynamics
  • One of the highest elevation vineyards of the Beaujolais appellation near Saint-Amour and Julienas.
  • The granite soils of this hillside makes a seriously dense and chiseled Beaujolais, all the while expressing the classic textured fruit we crave in great Gamay
  • Whole cluster fermentation, with a semi-carbonic maceration.
  • Aged in cement tank and demi-muids.

Fleurie ‘Roche Guillon’, Domaine de Fa [A. & M. Graillot]

  • Certified organic, in conversion to biodynamics
  • 45+ year old vines
  • Crushed granite and clay
  • 300m altitude
    • One of the highest vineyards in Fleurie
  • Steep, west-facing
  • Whole cluster fermentation, with a semi-carbonic maceration
  • Aged in 1-3 year old foudre

Saint-Amour, Domaine de Fa [A. & M. Graillot]

  • Certified organic, in conversion to biodynamics
  • 40+ year old vines
  • From the single vineyard Côtes de Besset
    • 25 ha
  • Crushed granite, sand, and big chunks of granite
  • Whole cluster fermentation, with a semi-carbonic maceration
  • Aged in 1-3 year old foudre

Syrah du Morocco, ‘Syrocco’

Syrah du Morocco ‘Syrocco’, Thalvin [Alain Graillot]

  • 100% Syrah
  • Organic Farming
  • Vineyards all ploughed by hand
  • 25 year old vines on average
  • Aged in large older barrels

Encinas, by Antoine Graillot & Raúl Pérez

Bierzo Tinto, ‘Encinas’, Antoine Graillot & Raul Perez

  • A collaboration of between Antoine Graillot and Spanish superstar Raul Perez
  • 100% whole cluster Mencia
  • A portion of the grapes are from the famed Rapolao vineyard
  • Fermented in concrete tank and then transferred to foudre
  • The wine luxuriates in a long post fermentative maceration on the skins