The drive to find the Domaine of Le Petit Gimios was comical and frustrating in equal measure with wrong turns, 3 point corrections and too much time spent crooked looking through the rear view window reversing down narrow roads. Only an hour late, we finally found what is most certainly a ‘petit’ domaine nestled in the hamlet of St. Jean de Minervois. Population, 149.
Le Petit Domaine de Gimios is owned and managed by Anne Marie Lavaysse and her son Pierre. Anne Marie is a force. She should be more widely recognised as one of the quiet pioneers that has had as much to do with France’s natural wine movement as the likes of giants such as Marcel Lapierre and Jean Foillard. Quietly doing her thing in the Languedoc producing astounding examples of dry muscat ‘sans soufre’ since the late 90’s and garnering a loyal fan club along the way.
Becoming a winemaker for her was a matter of circumstance. After a freak fire burnt the wheat crop she was tending, she purchased a farm with abandoned vineyards attached, and for 6 years set about to prune with intent so as to re-establish the root system, not producing her first vintage until 1999. Vines which had never been subjected to chemical intervention, and so it seemed only natural she continue on that path.
In France there is a draconian and outdated law that says you mush retire at the age of 67. Anne Marie was forced to comply legally. Off record she still has a full-time position at the domaine and remains to be one of the healthiest and hardworking 75 year olds I’ve ever met.
On the day of our visit she was gearing up the small tractor they use for spraying biodynamic herbal concoctions of nettle and essential oils, taking advantage of the lack of wind which can tear through this area from the mountains behind the vineyards. Pierre’s partner, Heather showed us around Le Combe a two hectare plot of muscat with incredible views of the Pyrenees. Soils are comprised of fossils and large jagged limestone. Earth that is worked with a pick axe, not for the faint hearted or soft handed.
Both Anne Marie and Pierre are incredibly modest and welcoming winemakers. Working extremely old low yielding plants, producing wines that embed themselves in the consumers mind. The unmistakable wildflower scent of muscat finds its way into each of their cuveès, (reds included) which provides a beguiling and intoxicating effect. Muscat is well known to thrive in the limestone rich soils of Minnervois but truly comes to life in the hands of Anne Marie and Pierre Laveysse.