Domaine de Valmengaux
(vahl-mon-go) | Bordeaux
Domaine de Valmengaux is a pioneering domaine created in 2000…
from one contiguous 4ha parcel of certified organic 35 – 70 year old vines growing on gentle slopes of well-drained clay-limestone soils on the outskirts of the tiny right bank village of Vérac. The village lies 35 km northeast of Bordeaux, 17 km northwest of Pomerol, and 20 km from Saint-Émilion. Vérac exemplifies the slower-paced, idyllic country life of the right bank of Bordeaux that exists outside the glamorous addresses of their famous neighbors. The wines of Domaine de Valmengaux display a similar structure to the wines of nearby Pomerol with their impressive texture, density, and length. Bordeaux is currently in flux, with small, environmentally-focused wineries like Valmengaux breaking preconceived ideas of where the region’s future lies. In many ways, wineries like Valmengaux are a return to what originally made the region great.
The name Valmengaux came from a combination of the names of the former owners Béatrice and Vincent Rapin’s children: Valentin, Clementin, and Margaux. They founded the property with the goal to make a great Bordeaux utilizing organic farming methods outside of the control of the region’s negociant system. They were very successful in this endeavor, achieving official organic certification in 2012, while making a name for Domaine de Valmengaux by consistently outperforming their appellation (A.O.C. Bordeaux). The domaine showed that chemical-free farming is not only possible, but can result in wines with incredible energy and emotion from their countryside that has been under vine since Roman times.
Husband and wife team David & Valérie Vallet have been writing the next chapter of Domaine de Valmengaux since their arrival at the property in 2017 from Burgundy, via Paris. Valérie (who maintains her human resources job in medical social work) and David (who spent 20 years in IT management in the video game industry) are both wine lovers who had the desire to live a different lifestyle, closer to the land. David & Valérie share the same philosophy as Béatrice and Vincent Rapin before them–a philosophy centered on utilizing organic and regenerative farming to handcraft terroir-driven natural wines outside of the rigid Bordeaux system.
Specifically, they do not use chemical herbicides or pesticides in the vineyard (the property has been free of both since at least 2000), and they limit the number of bunches during pruning as to evenly space the bunches to allow natural ventilation, with the benefit of concentration in the wine. They utilize cover crops and native grasses between the vine rows and tilling is kept to a minimum. The property is entirely handpicked, and in the cellar they utilize spontaneous fermentation triggered by the indigenous yeasts present on the grape skins and in the atmosphere of the cellar. The estate is small enough to harvest completely in one day and the cellar is located directly next to the vineyard, so grape quality is always exceptional. Bunches are completely destemmed, crushed and fermented in large, temperature-controlled cement fermentation tanks, similar to the ones used in Beaujolais.
The property is 4ha in total, with only 2.5ha currently in production, on gentle north east and north west slopes of well-drained clay-limestone soils which provide various exposures of remarkable diversity within a small area. The varieties currently planted are mostly cordon-trained, old vine merlot (90%), with cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon making up the balance. However, they have begun the process planting malbec when old vines die, with an eye towards climate change, with malbec’s heat and drought resistant qualities being prized. David, who is also an enthusiastic Loire Valley wine lover and chenin blanc obsessive (like the rest of us), has even planted a parcel of chenin from which he will soon make an outlaw cuvée once the vines are old enough.
Currently they are making two different cuvées of Domaine de Valmengaux: Cuvée En Foudre and Cuvée En Jarre. Cuvée En Foudre is aged in used, 12hl and 20hl Austrian Stockinger oak foudres. Cuvée En Jarre is aged in 500-liter earthenware amphorae from Artenova in Tuscany, Italy. Each élevage provides a different patina for the expression of the property, without overpowering the terroir expression, which is their primary goal. The wines display remarkable purity, richness, and depth, with tasting notes which bring to mind the excellence one finds in neighboring Pomerol. Valmengaux is quite approachable right out of the gate, yet will repay up to 10 years of further age in bottle, if you can wait that long to drink these supremely delicious wines.
It takes tenacity and courage to exist outside of the tightly manicured and controlled world of the Bordeaux negociants and La Place de Bordeaux. With the market collapsing around them, the future for working class vignerons of the region lies in a grower/terroir-driven model more similarly resembling Burgundy and the Loire. We are incredibly proud to work in partnership with Bordeaux vignerons like Domaine de Valmengaux to bring these authentic, alternative perspectives to the US market and we are equally excited to play a small part in the next chapter for the region.