History of Maison Tardieu-Laurent
Founded in 1994, the negociant firm of Maison Tardieu-Laurent was created by two men with entirely different backgrounds: Dominique Laurent, the owner of a negociant firm in Burgundy, and Michel Tardieu, from Provence, who was then working as a driver for French dignitaries. Both lovers of quality wine from the Rhone Valley, they came together with the goal of developing relationships with the most talented growers and some of the oldest vines in the Rhone.
Michel, having driven through the Rhone Valley for sixteen years, became intimately familiar with its great terroirs, and developed close relationships with its many talented winemakers, local chefs and restauranteurs. It was through these connections that he met his business partner, Dominique Laurent, who had a reputation as a quality negociant in Burgundy, choosing small lots of wine from old-vine parcels and ageing them in his own barrels.
The two came together with their passion for wine and their skill at developing trustworthy relationships with growers in the Rhone, and in a few short years Maison Tardieu-Laurent became known as one of the Rhone Valley’s quality producers. As a negociant, Maison Tardieu-Laurent purchases fruit, and vinifies wine at the particular area of origin in order to keep the appellation, storing the wines in their own barrels at the producer location until February after harvest. They then transport the wine to the cellars they built in 1994, the year of their first vintage, at a 15th-16th century chateau in Lourmarin, Provence, where Michel grew up.
In 2008, Dominique Laurent left the business, and Michel Tardieu purchased 100% of the market shares, allowing Maison Tardieu-Laurent to become the family operation it is known as today. Michel has mastered all of the technical and commercial decisions of managing his business and works side by side with his son Bastien Tardieu, who has been winemaker at Tardieu-Laurent since Dominique’s departure in 2008. His wife, Michele, and daughter, Camille, work together to build the Tardieu-Laurent brand into the success it is today.
The Negociant Relationship with Growers and the Vine
It is through honest connection and an emphasis on community that Tardieu-Laurent was able to succeed in developing a reputation as one of the Rhone Valley’s finest winemakers. Michel Tardieu has worked to build relationships with 60-70 different vignerons, all harvesting wines from vineyards with 50-100 year old vines, throughout the Northern and Southern Rhone. He does not own any vineyards, instead, he selects parcels of vines and then relies on the vigneron to engage in the best viticultural practices to ensure the harvesting of quality fruit. His long term, “hand-shake” deals are built on mutual respect and a deep trust, as the philosophies of the growers he works with, align with his own; they farm in harmony with nature, using no chemicals or artificial fertilizers, continually refining their techniques to remain as close as possible to the grapes and the distinct terroir. Visiting regularly over the course of the year, Michel walks through the vineyards with the winemakers, sharing technical information, winemaking techniques and even declaring when the grapes are ready to be harvested; he cares deeply about the wines he produces at every step of the winemaking process.
Once the grapes are picked, they are sorted and vinified at the specific grower’s property with the input of Michel and Philippe Cambie, a reputable oenologist in the Rhone Valley that assists Tardieu-Laurent during the winemaking process to support the various vignerons in creating wines that express the quality of the Tardieu-Laurent name. After fermentation is complete, in February following the harvest, the wines are racked into Michel’s barrels and transported to his domaine in Lourmarin, where they are aged according to appellation and vintage style. The final product is a reflection of this community effort, and promised quality under the Tardieu-Laurent name.
Built in 1994, both Michel Tardieu and Dominique Laurent’s expertise in the industry formed the foundation of Maison Tardieu-Laurent, built on philosophical principles that mirrored both of the men’s vision. Tardieu-Laurent uses fruit from the oldest vines, ideally between 50 and 100 years old, from the best parcels in the best regions. They purchase from vignerons in Saint Peray, Condrieu, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas, and Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone, and Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and Chateauneuf du Pape in the Southern Rhone Valley. Sourcing from some of the most distinct regions within the Rhone, their main focus is on expressing the grape in its terroir and they are able to do this by choosing organic and biodynamic agriculture as much as possible. To ensure this, their long-term personal relationships with the vignerons are of utmost importance, as their trust and mutual respect for each other lay a strong foundation for the Tardieu-Laurent wines.
As a negociant, the Tardieu-Laurent brand comes into play post-fermentation, when the wine is transported from the appellation to the Tardieu’s cellars in Provence. Michel Tardieu works with barrels produced to his own specifications, which are made with oak from the forests of Troncais and Allier. The wood is air dried naturally for 26-30 months before use; this slow drying eliminates any “green” flavors. The barrels are 228 liter Burgundy-style casks, and the treatment of each barrel is specific to the type of wine it will hold. All of the Syrah wines are transferred into new oak barrels and the Grenache wines are poured into one-year old casks. There is distinct attention to detail here, as maturation of the wine varies from 18 to 24 months depending on the specific appellations. Most of the wines are not filtered and bottled by hand to preserve the structure and life of the wine in bottle.
Each of Maison Tardieu-Laurent’s wines aim to express the distinct terroir of origin. A passionate lover of wines from the Rhone Valley, Michel Tardieu and his family are committed to delivering consistent wines of exceptional quality and supporting the community of talented growers, as they maintain their reputation as one of the most highly acclaimed negociants in the Rhone.