The vines are situated in the communes of St Saturnin, Jonquieres and Arboras between altitudes of 100-400 metres, at the foot of the Larzac, rich with the perfumes of the surrounding scrubland. The Herault is formed of vast stony, clay river terraces, which descend as far as the riverbanks.
The climate is typically Mediterranean, characterised by exceptional sunshine and the heavy rainfalls of spring and autumn, Saint Saturnin lies in the ‘corridors’ of the cold winds of the Tramontane and the Mistral, one coming from the north east, the other from the north west.
The vines are in the zone of the Appellation d’Origine Controle (AOC): Coteaux du Languedoc – Terrasses de Larzac, and benefit from the local designation: Saint Saturnin. The grape varieties are grenache blanc, et rouge, syrah, carignan and cinsault.
The vines are 25–50 years old and are cultivated organically; the yields are regulated in accordance with the wines. They are intentionally kept low, on average, less than 30 hectolitres per hectare.
Manual work is favoured as it allows, by using our own eyes and hands, to tend more closely to the individual needs of each vine and each parcel of vines.
After our years work the vines are all harvested by hand, the grapes are carefully sorted and selected directly from the vine and transported to the cellar in small crates holding 10-15 kilos.
The date of the harvest is carefully decided in accordance with the maturity of the grapes, the balance of sugar and acidity, and the maturity of the tannins. It is a key moment for the equilibrium and the finesse of the wines.
For the last 10 years, Virgile Joly has been extracting from the soil the red fruit flavours that subtly infuse his delicious wines. They are wines that combine his attachment to the land and his underlying knowledge with a total respect for nature.
Having spent his childhood in the Rhone Valley between Avignon and Vaison-la-Romaine, Virgile, whose grandfather was a wine-grower, remains deeply attached to the land. After working as an oenologist in France and Chilli, he created his own winery in March 2000 with 1 hectare of vines, for his 10th vinification.
A few months later he gained a further 4 hectares for rent, which allowed him to set himself up as a young farmer in 2001, the same year that he converted to certified organic farming methods.
In the same year, the English writer, Patrick Moon, spent two weeks a month with Virgile, leading to him publishing a book called “VIRGILE’S VINEYARD, A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country” (Ed John Murrays). The book recounts not only Virgile’s experience as a wine-grower, but also the history of wine in the Languedoc.
In 2003 an additional 3 hectares of vines augmented the estate. The following year, Magdalena Bogucka, Virgile’s companion joined him at the winery.
After the initial euphoria of creating a new winery came the time to restructure, in order to continually improve the vineyard, cultivation methods and work in the wine-cellar as well as the administrative running of the winery and commercializing the wines.
By 2006, the winery was employing 3 people and was cultivating 8.5 hectares producing around 2 500 cases of wine, or about 30 000 bottles.
Today, the Domaine Virgile Joly is a family affair. Magdalena works alongside Virgile to help him achieve his goal of making premium organic wines.
As well as running their own 15 hectares of vines (split between Jonquières, Saint Guiraud and Saint Saturnin), they also went into partnership with Christopher Johnson-Gilbert, a City lawyer, who acquired 10 hectares of vines in Montpeyroux. This meeting led to a fruitful collaboration, both technical and human, which allowed Virgile Joly to work in a new territory, the Montpeyroux appellation, on an additional 10 hectares (the first vintage being a rosé in 2009). It also allowed him to build a new state-of-the-art wine-making cellar in the commune of Arboras. Average production in 2010 was 45 000 bottles and is planned to reach 80 000 bottles by 2012.