Virgile Joly grew up in the Rhone Valley in Avignon, grandson of wine-growers who were part of the cooperative in norhern Ventoux. He spent ten years working as an oenologist in France and Chile, and then in 2000, at the age of 28, leased a hectare (2.5 acres) of vines and began making his own wine, fulfilling a life-long dream. That first year he hand-bottled 3,564 bottles of Grenache-dominated wine. With his love for wine making and his passion for organic farming, it is certainly fitting that his vineyards lie in the Languedoc, France’s top spot for organically farmed grapes!
Now in 2012, he farms 15 ha (37 acres) of his own land and since 2009 has been making wine out of a new facility in Arboras, where he also collaborates with another producer. Virgile is helping this producer to make wines and in the process, has been honing his skills working with a new appellation and new wines, specifically rosés.
Virgile’s vineyards are situated in the communes of St Saturnin, Jonquieres and Arboras between altitudes of 100-400 meters. The Herault is formed of vast stony, clay river terraces, which descend as far as the riverbanks. The climate is typically Mediterranean, characterized by exceptional sunshine and the heavy rainfalls of spring and autumn. Virgile extols the beauty of his terroir. The soil on the Larzac plateau is stony soil with limestone and is very deep topsoil so the roots can really penetrate.
According to the AOC system, they are in the Coteaux du Languedoc, the region; sub-region, Terraces du Larzac, and then they are in the local designation of Saint-Saturnin.
Currently, about a third of his vines are Syrah, but he also cultivates Grenache Blanc and Noir, Cinsault, Roussane, and now Viognier and Mourvedre. In addition he has about 1.6 ha (4 acres) of 40-60 year old Carignan vines. His vineyards were first certified by Ecocert in 2007 and while not certified by Demeter, he does practice some biodynamic principles. He uses only natural yeasts in the vinification process.
Already recognized as a rising star, Virgile has been noted in the Guide Hachette, Gault et Millau, The Wine Report, and he received the French Banque Populaire National Trophy in 2007 for outstanding achievement and innovation in Agricultural Enterprise. Half of the 45,000 bottles that he produces annually are exported to northern Europe, North and South America, and Japan.
Virgile is the subject of Patrick Moon’s 2003 book, “Virgile’s Vineyard, A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country.” He is vice-president of the Syndicat des producteurs de Saint-Saturnin and a technical administrator Association Interprofessionnelle Des Vins Biologiques Du Languedoc-Roussillon AIVB-LR.