Established in 1994, the Tardieu-Laurent wines turned heads from the outset. Michel Tardieu, now working independently, is completely free to pursue his philosophy without any impediment. Obsessive in his pursuit of the perfect translation of vintage and place, Michel refers to himself as a terroirist. Provençal by birth, Michel settled in the Lubéron, in the southern Rhône, with his charming wife Michelle. In partnership with Burgundian pastry chef turned wine producer Dominic Laurent, he set up the négociant house, Tardieu-Laurent. Michel buys wine, selected according to the quality of the vineyard and looks after the maturation, blending and commercialisation of the wines. Michel Tardieu is now flying solo, establishing his own hallmark, whilst reflecting the essence of the vintage and specific vineyard sites.
Logically, given that the accurate translation of terroir and vintage is fundamental to Michel Tardieu’s mindset, intervention is minimal and top quality ingredients are absolutely essential. To that end, a huge part of Michel’s work involves building long-term, mutually beneficial, relationships with a network of low-yield producers, who own specific, top quality parcels, largely of old vines. Michel works closely with them, ensuring the very best possible vine husbandry. Many are organic and some biodynamic. As a result, he has long-established contacts in both the northern and southern Rhône. He knows the vineyards by heart, as well as the specific parcels within those vineyards which are of interest to him. Most of the vines selected are naturally low-yielding as a result of their age – over fifty years of age and often older. Once a contract has been agreed, Michel Tardieu delivers his selected barrels to the vigneron and eventually takes delivery once the wine is in wood, generally early spring following the vintage.
Tardieu-Laurent – winemaking philosophy
The northern Rhône reds, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage are destined for new oak, Alliers and Tronçais. Tardieu-Laurent southern reds usually go into barrels of one year or a mix of new and one year. Of the whites, cuvée Guy Louis, Condrieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Saint-Péray are partially in new oak, part one year old whilst Tardieu-Laurent’s substantial and exceptional Hermitage sees 100% new barrels. Michel is increasingly attentive to the use of oak. He wants to avoid its masking the finished wines. Sensitivity to the role of oak is just one of the areas which have evolved since Michel Tardieu and Dominic Laurent parted ways. Another is the upgrading of the cellar, a new tasting room which facilitates blending, and a new bottling system. Michel was increasingly concerned that having cared for his wines meticulously up to bottling, he did not have sufficient control over the technical side of this final process. He has made an enormous investment in bottling to allay these concerns and to secure optimal control of pristine quality. Tardieu-Laurent reds are bottled without fining or filtration while the whites are very lightly filtered. Despite the fact that Michel wants his wines to be honest reflections of the vintage, his ruthlessness in selection, allied to old vine resilience, allows him to make attractive, balanced and very fine wines, even in difficult years. There will simply be very little available.
Tardieu-Laurent – red wines from southern Rhône
The Tardieu-Laurent portfolio extends across many appellations, in limited quantities.
Côtes-du-Rhône Villages: a 50:50 Grenache/Syrah blend, from a single estate. The terroir is strewn with the large pudding stones for which Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous. Grenache is over sixty years old, Syrah over twenty.
Bandol: 100% Mourvèdre – fifty years old, from one source, on clay-limestone soil. Matured in year-old barrels.
Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge Guy Louis: A 60:40 blend of Grenache (fifty years old) and Syrah (thirty-five years), from Rasteau, Cairanne and Plan de Dieu.
Rasteau Vieilles Vignes: 80% Grenache of eighty years and 20% Syrah of thirty-five years, in a mix of new and one-year-old oak.
Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes: 90% Grenache of over sixty-five years, 10% Syrah of over thirty-five years, in a mix of new and one-year-old oak.
Gigondas Vieilles Vignes: 85% Grenache of over sixty-five years and 15% Syrah of over thirty-five years, in a mix of new and one-year-old oak.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Different cuvées of Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced depending on the vintage. Vieilles Vignes is 90% Grenache of ninety years and 10% Syrah of thirty years, in a mix of new and one-year-old oak. The Cuvée Spéciale is 100% Grenache of 80 to 100 years grown on sandy soils and matured in one-year-old casks. There is often a straight Châteauneuf made too, although not labelled as old vines as the vines are mere striplings of just fifty years old!
Tardieu-Laurent – red wines from norhern Rhône
Crozes-Hermitage Vieilles Vignes: 100% Syrah of fifty years and more from one estate, matured in new Tronçais and Alliers oak.
Saint-Joseph Vieilles Vignes: This is from Syrah and Sérine (the original Syrah clone) of fifty years and more, matured in new Tronçais and Alliers oak.
Cornas Côteaux: Syrah and Sérine of fifty years and more, on parcels of Chaillots, Les Eygats and Saint-Pierre, matured in new Tronçais and Alliers oak.
Côte-Rôtie: Syrah and Sérine of fifty years and more, on parcels of Landonne, Chavaroche, Moulin, Rozier and Champon, matured in new Tronçais and Alliers oak.
Hermitage: Syrah and Sérine of sixty years and more, on parcels of Rouméas, Muret, Beaumes and Méal, in new Tronçais and Alliers oak.
Tardieu-Laurent – white wines
Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Guy Louis: Blend of north- and south-sourced parcels, 60% Marsanne, of fifty years and more, 15% Roussanne, 10% Grenache (sixty years) and 10% Viognier in new and one year oak.
Condrieu: 100% Viognier, of more than forty years, matured in new and one year oak.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes: 50% Roussanne, of twenty years, 50% Grenache, of sixty years, from parcels of Crau, Serres and Belvédère, in new and one year oak.
Saint-Péray Vieilles Vignes: 40% Roussanne (100 years), 60% Marsanne (thirty-five years), in new and one year oak.