Shadowing Domaine Gayda’s Vincent Chansault during harvest

Ever wonder what a winemaker does during harvest time – apart from not sleeping? Particularly when he makes 23 different cuvées from 27 different plots across four regions of the sprawling region that is the Languedoc Roussillon? Peter Dean decided to find out and spent two days with Domaine Gayda’s winemaker Vincent Chansault – one day on the road visiting a dozen different vineyards, the other day a week later at the winery. It was an eye-opening experience that involved eating a lot of grapes, driving down hair-raising slopes, out-manoeuvring wild boar, eating more grapes and then discovering how the fruit had been tackled in the winery (…)

Vincent Chanson

New breed: Vincent Chansault, Gayda’s technical director, and one of the South West’s most impressive young winemakers

(…) We are standing in a vineyard at first light in the Minervois, the region of the Languedoc where some of its best wines are made. As the sun comes up we can see terraced plots ascend to one side of the valley, punctuated by flora and fauna of all description – figs, walnut trees, bay and, lower down, wild garlic, lavender and fennel plus a whole host of other shrubs that make up the heady aromas of the garrigue, just starting to rise up as the morning air warms. Cocks crow, dogs bark and the bells of a nearby church in the village of La Livinière disturb the still air.

For one of the fastest-rising talents in South-West France making wine is not just about growing healthy grapes in isolation, for Chansault, an early adopter of organic viticulture, just as important is how the vines work within their overall natural environment – how the different varieties react in different soils, on different aspects and altitudes, how the grapes taste on one side of the plot compared to the other. Here is a man who is endlessly fascinated by the natural world – the minutiae of how each part works with one another.

“It is so important to grow grapes in a truly diverse environment,” Chansault says, smiling as he takes in our surroundings.