In September 2014 we visited several wineries in the Médoc. The Médoc is a region of Bordeaux, sitting comfortably just north of the city and along the west bank of the Gironde estuary. In official terms Médoc is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and houses some of the world’s most well known wineries and wine locations. We were in Pauillac, a small town regarded as a center of fine wine making.
On the outskirts of Pauillac we visited Alain, an established wine maker who for years has worked with two of the most well-known and respected Bordeaux wineries. Gradually he’s pieced together a few rows of vines, acquired a small warehouse and installed winemaking equipment. He knows the industry inside out and makes truly exceptional wines. He does every bit of the process on his own: from planting and tending the vines all the way to designing and printing the labels. To be fair, he invites friends and relatives to help him harvest, but basically he’s a one-man show. We spent an afternoon with him, just before harvest time. We tasted his grapes and agreed they were nearly ready to pick. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Alain has a small business. Every bottle of wine he’s ever made, and hasn’t sold, is sitting there in his warehouse. And the warehouse is small, You could drive past it and never realize what’s inside. It’s no bigger than a house.
Alain owns less than one hectare of vines. His vines aren’t contiguous. They’re scattered here and there, surrounded by the vines of much larger and well-known wineries. We visited two of Alain’s rows. There were in a small field of perhaps twenty or thirty rows. Alain’s two were on the left-hand side of the field. Alain sells his wine for about 20€ a bottle. Wine produced from the other rows in the same field, less than one meter from Alain’s vines, sells for five times as much.
Alain will be featured in The Little Big Wines project. He wasn’t the first we’d visited, but visiting with him solidified the project in our minds. This was an idea that had been brewing for some time and Alain helped the vision crystallize.