Laurent ROBERT – Domaine Combe Julière

Laurent Robert N&B

Laurent Robert © A.O.C Rasteau

There’s always something happening in Rasteau, of my life since I was a boy. And even though I nearly

and 43 year old Laurent Robert, president of the tourist office, is well-placed to know exactly what it is. As soon as the tourist season starts, visitors flock to the village – and the 800 residents spare no effort to make them feel welcome. Every year sees a new event on the summer programme. “Last year we thought we’d try a pop-up wine bar. That was very popular,” says Laurent. “This year we’ll do it again, in the village square on selected Tuesday nights in July and August.”

Meeting the winegrowers

Laurent makes his position very clear: “Sales are not my thing. I employ agents to sell my wines. But I love meeting people.” Whether it’s promoting a walking trail around the village where visitors can take in the whole area at a glance and get an overview of the appellation, or presenting a guided tasting of 5 wines with 5 cheeses (which takes place every year), Laurent is an indefatigable champion of Rasteau as a tourist destination. “You can be close to nature here” he says, “and for a bon vivant, it’s a dream come true. You can stroll through the countryside, take a siesta, then in the evening meet up with the vignerons. Enjoy a glass of wine, have a chat – it’s great.”

On some evenings, Laurent’s father, village mayor since 1989, might put in an appearance. On those occasions, you can be sure that between father and son, you’ll soon find out all there is to know about Rasteau wines and village life.

“I founded the Domaine in 1999 with my father. We rented a winery to start with, but then managed to buy one in 2003,” says Laurent. “The vines have been part became a footballer, I’ve always wanted to see my name on a wine label. I’m passionate about wine and winemaking.”

Good structure and ageing potential

Once he had his diploma in oenology and completed his internship at Rasteau’s cooperative winery, Laurent resolved to go out on his own. First, he had to find his own personal style – it turned out to be structured wines with good ageing potential, freshness and a touch of menthol. His golden rule is to avoid using Syrah. “Maybe I just haven’t got the right vine parcels,” he explains, “but after a few trial runs I realised it was spoiling my wines. There’s no Syrah in my Rasteau cuvées – it’s one of my foibles.” Grenache is the dominant grape, from older vines growing in almost contiguous parcels around the family farm on the outskirts of the village. Some years, depending on vintage, the older vines are vinified separately and aged in oak demi-muids for 16 months. The vines can be up to 90 years old. The resulting cuvée is called “Aimé” – after Laurent’s father.

In 2013, Laurent extended the vineyards by purchasing part of Domaine de Pisan, one of the largest estates in Rasteau. Production reached 600 hl, plus the grapes sold to the cooperative. The Domaine had taken only 16 years to reach cruising speed.

“I don’t really want to get bigger,” says Laurent. “Don’t forget I started with nothing. I might look at making new cuvées, but I don’t want to expand any further.”

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