Wineries to Visit in the South of France: Domaine Gayda

Domaine Gayda is a must visit if you’re in the Languedoc! South-West of Carcassonne, the impressive yet rustic entrance with it’s cypress-lined driveway cuts through the vineyards leading up to the raised, majestic winery. Domaine Gayda looks like it has always been there, however this dream only became a reality in 2003 – a joint venture between Anthony Record and Tim Ford, with winemaker Vincent Chansault. They now produce 20 wines, have gone organic and offer an array of experiences.

The original 18th-century farmhouse, was bought by Anthony a few years previously and at the time the old farmhouse was surrounded by fields of sunflowers and nothing else. A chance meeting on the school run in the UK was the start of the wine project…

Tim recently back from Zimbabwe was looking for a new challenge. Originally from a winegrowing family in Sussex and then plying his trade as a horticulturist (flowers not vines!) all over Africa he had some qualifications! Anthony had spent much time in South Africa and this is where they found their winemaker; a young Vincent Chansault, originally from the Loire Valley but flying his trade in Stellenbosch at the time.

The estate’s 12 hectares of sunflowers became home to Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Viognier. The cherry-picked varietal range includes both Mediterranean and Loire grapes and exemplifies a spirit of freedom that challenges the conventional local wisdom of the appellation system. It speaks volumes about the mindset of the estate’s founders who, from the outset, would follow one guiding principle: to produce wines of excellence with no preconceived ideas about grape varieties or terroirs, keeping an open mind in order to select the finest varietal characters in typical New World spirit. This inherent curiosity is still an integral part of the estate today.

The restaurant at Gayda. Sit indoor, or on the terrace with views over the vines.

Working to such high standards has also led Domaine Gayda to break the mould and go down the organic route. It began the conversion in 2008 and was certified organic in 2011 and latterly the vineyards at Brugairolles have become bio-dynamic since 2017. To encourage biodiversity different species such as truffle oak and olive trees have been introduced throughout the vineyards – they also dedicate an olive tree to every couple that gets married at Gayda!

The whole ethos these days is about drinking less but drinking better. In light of that Gayda is constantly searching for the ideal wine; Vincent is a demanding winemaker relentlessly experimenting with new ageing techniques and vessels.

The organic and biodynamic principles show the level of care they have for their vines and huge investments have been made in weather stations and wine making machinery to make sure they can be scientifically precise in everything they do.

Even the branding shows their individual nature – labels range from their comic book strip ‘En Passant’ – a different label for each year, showcasing a different ‘episode’ at Gayda to the more traditional single varietal Cépages and Selection ranges up to their showpiece Chemin de Moscou.

Tim Ford, Managing Director at Domaine Gayda, showing off his grapes.

Domaine Gayda stands out as a real beacon in the area. The impressive yet understated building is nestled amidst the vineyards and as you enter there is a touch of class about the place. A Dylan Lewis cheetah sculpture (also seen at Delaire Graff) guards the main entrance.

An impressive entrance room is adorned with photographs of the rich and famous by US photographer Russell Melcher (who has retired to the area) and bottles of Chemin de Moscou, the top wine of the estate, are racked in front of you in temperature controlled cabinets.

Upstairs the shop displays the whole 20 strong collection and the bar is the perfect place to try them out, free of charge. Formal tastings, ‘tapas’ tastings and blending sessions are all available. The restaurant has a superb menu and eating out on the terrace is a perfect way to soak up the views!

To the rear of the building amongst the vines are several cabin-like huts which can be rented together or separately; with some live music this is a great spot for a gathering. If a tasting or lunch isn’t enough then why not inquire about the 4 gîtes, attached to the main farmhouse.

Rustic, chic French decoration with spacious and comfortable interiors, it’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the Languedoc heat. The pool has a fantastic hosting area, fitted out with a kitchen, various eating areas, changing rooms and even a conference room – plus there is the winery up the road!

Domaine Gayda now produces 1.5m bottles annually, exports to over 40 countries and their wine tourism offering has grown to match. This wonderful winery is not one to be missed if you’re in the Languedoc.

If driving down to the south of France why not spend 2 days in Sancerre?

The driveway at Domaine Gayda

The driveway at Domaine Gayda

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