It all began in 2005. Three long-time lovers of French cuisine and lifestyle, and especially wine, dreamed of creating something different. Together with a group of young vignerons in one of the oldest regions of France, we wanted to make wines that were fascinating but approachable. Wines that went brilliantly with food, but are delicious by themselves.
Wines that, like our favourite clothes, are at home everywhere and with everyone – on the beach, with a burger, or with a Michelin-starred meal. Above all, we wanted to share the unique flavours of one of the most glorious parts of France with as many people as possible.
Hugh Ryman has made wine all over the world, from Bordeaux and Spain to Australia and South America.
Robert Joseph is an award-winning former wine critic and author.
Kevin Shaw is a superstar graphic designer who loves good food and wine.
Julie Coumes is responsible for the cooperative in the hillside village of La Livinière where the finest Grand Cru vines of the Minervois are grown.
Emmanual Fons does the same job in Pépieux & Aigues Vives, home to some of the region’s best Syrah.
They work with one of the region’s most experienced winemakers, Eric Lacuve.
JEAN MARC VINCENDET
And their colleague, winemaker and consultant Jean Marc Vincendet.
Overall director Philippe Lauret.
Over a thousand grapegrowers who, with their families, own and tend nearly 15,000 acres (6,000 ha) of vineyards of the Celliers Jean d’Alibert estate. This is one of the largest wine estates in France, and it is these men and women who collectively decide how it should all be run.
It’s definitely not a corporation.
They farm land where the Romans planted vines two millennia ago. They may have tractors and modern equipment, but most of the work they do every day has hardly changed over the centuries.
What has changed is the grapes varieties we’ve planted and the way we are blending wines from different parts of the estate to create styles and flavours that are both true to the region and yet wholly new.
FROM SOUTHERN FRANCE TO THE WORLD
Every day, we’re all still learning and discovering what this magical landscape can produce – and sharing its fruits with people in over 60 countries across the world, from the US to Vietnam; Estonia to India; the UK to Ukraine. We love seeing Le Grand Noir being served in fine glassware in Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill.
But we’re just as happy to see it being enjoyed with local charcuterie and paté on a café terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, or simply with some great cheese and bread by a pool on Long Island.
And we’re all seeing our dream come true – a wine that’s at home in France – and everywhere on the planet.
To make great wine you need great grapes.
We are incredibly lucky to be growing ours in one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. We have almost every kind of landscape, from the plains close to the Mediterranean Sea to the savage slopes of the Montagne Noire – the black mountain.
Walking through some of the vineyards, there’s crunchy gravel beneath your feet. In others there’s chalky soil, clay or sand. And each of these suits a different grape variety. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like that chalk; Cabernet Sauvignon prefers the gravel.
The temperature varies too, thanks to altitudes that range from 164 ft/50m to 984 ft/300m, and winds from the ocean and the hills that prevent the fruit from baking in the sun and becoming too alcoholic. We’re happy to say that none of the le Grand Noir wines is over 13.5%, and that’s one of the reasons they are so easy to drink with or without food.
Those hillside breezes don’t just keep the wines fresh. They contribute to the unique character of each of the le Grand Noir wines. The French call the combination of soil, microclimate and slope in a vineyard terroir, and every bottle of le Grand Noir brings together a range of different terroirs, a combination that gives the wine the balanced ‘complex’ quality associated with all fine wine.
The Minervois region where the le Grand Noir grapes are grown has barely changed since the Romans grew vines and made wine here.. They enjoyed the same scents of olive, honeysuckle, rosemary, thyme and juniper that scent the air today. Like us, they’d have seen wild boar, deer and hares running through the landscape, and flamingos, harriers and eagles soaring in the sky overhead.
Maintaining this precious biodiversity has always really mattered to the families who lovingly tend the le Grand Noir vines. They appreciate the importance of respecting the balance of nature, and the damage that can be wrought by pesticides and herbicides. Today that respect for nature comes with an official HVE stamp of sustainability to be found on the back label of every bottle of le Grand Noir, along with a Vegan symbol indicating that no animal products have been used when making it.
But sustainability is not just about biodiversity. Le Grand Noir does not just reflect the landscape. It embodies the people and culture of this ancient corner of France where going shopping means browsing the stalls of an open-air market on a Saturday morning and discussing recipes with the fishmonger or butcher. We’re committed to protecting and maintaining this unique lifestyle which is why we are involved in local festivals and events, and why we have joined in an ambitious project along the banks of the Canal du Midi. This extraordinary waterway was dug by hand by thousands of workers between 1667 and 1681 to connect the city of Toulouse to the Mediterranean.
Today, over four centuries later, transport barges and holidaymakers’ leisure craft glide along its surface before mooring in Homps, home to some of le Grand Noir’s best Syrah vineyards. From next year, money from every case of le Grand Noir we sell will go towards the planting of trees along the banks of the canal.
The Minervois region is one of the finest parts of France to visit. Less glitzy than the Côte d’Azur along the coast, it is far less spoiled.
This is the real France where Parisians come every August to get away from it all. There are plenty of fine gourmet restaurants, but there are also lots of rustic cafes and inns where at lunchtime, you’ll find men and women who’ve been working in offices and in the fields getting together over a simple meal prepared from locally grown ingredients.
Throughout the year, in the villages and towns these same people meet up with visitors from elsewhere at a wide range of are festivals and events.
Two of the best of these are the month-long Carcassonne Festival and the far-smaller Festival of Caunes Minervois which is sponsored by le Grand Noir.
In July 2022, in the ancient walled city of Carcassonne, festival goers enjoyed the chance to hear top international acts ranging from John Legend, Jack White, and Ben Harper to Deep Purple, Ben Harper and Rag’n’ Bone Man.
At the end of the following month the medieval Benedictine Abbey in the picturesque village of Caunes-Minervois, down the road from the le Grand Noir winery, was the setting for a very different menu, with classical and contemporary music, world music and jazz. In 2022, the spotlight was on the composers Arvo Pärt, Torsten Rasch, and Bechara El Khoury, with performances by the ‘Magic Clarinetist’ Patrick Messina.