Stéphane Lucas is a very small-scale producer in Gaillac, where another 200 or so growers also tend their vines. He is among the roughly half of those who do so independently, and among the small but growing number of those who work organically. To supplement his income as a vigneron, he continues to work with the A.O.C., a job which allows him the opportunity to visit other growers regularly, see their work in the vineyard, and taste the results. He was the first to know when a vineyard became available, which is how he came across the vineyards that would become Champ D’Orphée.
Stéphane sees it as his advantage being a grower from outside Gaillac, and one who did not inherit family vineyards. He had the opportunity to choose his vineyards, and enjoys the freedom to experiment in the vineyard and cellar without having to deal with a preservationist older generation. He brings a fresh set of eyes and new ways of thinking about producing wine in Gaillac.
We toured each of three separate vineyards that he works, planted entirely to the local variety braucol, with dramatically varied soil composition and exposition. Much of his work in the vineyard is in pruning each vine so that it has the best chance of producing the highest quality grapes. This means providing extra nourishment and leaving extra branches on the slower vines and cutting back those with too much vigor.
Stéphane and his father built by hand both the small, efficient winery and the adjacent house where he lives with his wife and two sons. There is a unique look and feel to both buildings, which seems a personal expression of humility, efficiency, and joie de vivre. We stood on the opposite side of the kitchen counter as Stéphane opened a bottle of the four vintages of his best wine. Every one had a story to tell, but the 2008,
the first wine he bottled, was special. Even he could hardly contain himself, as it had been over a year since the last bottle he had opened.