Interview with Fabrice Brunel

JULY 2022

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Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Lucien and his father André who died recently, Fabrice Brunel, the winemaker of Domaine André Brunel - Les Cailloux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, has no shortage of ideas for developing his trading. While keeping in mind the requirements that have made the success of its estate wines.
Fabrice Brunel arrived on the family farm in 2013 after working for ten years in a consulting company specializing in production management and logistics. Which probably explains why he has an uninhibited vision of his job as a winegrower-trader. He has just launched a program to install solar panels on four hectares of vines in Travaillan near Orange and is preparing to produce gin from his own grape marc. He also built a new 3,000 hectoliter vat room in his Châteauneuf-du-Pape cellar with a brand new tasting cellar: there was none at Domaine André Brunel until now. - The pebbles.
But what occupies him the most is the development of his trading activity in the Côtes-du-Rhône, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages and Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations... the same appellations in fact as those of the estate wines. "Only the labels - and the contents of the bottles of course - change, emphasizes Fabrice. Domaine André Brunel on one side and Vins André Brunel on the other. It's subtle but effective.
Fabrice Brunel also produces Vins de France. Like “Le Tracteur de Brunel”, marketed from 2017 (40,000 bottles per year), which is a blend of Grenache (40%) and Merlot (40%), from the Domaine, and Syrah purchased by trade at partner winegrowers. This wine, matured for a year in vats and sold for €6, is a resounding success with customers who like to drink a red as an aperitif.
“Le Tracteur de Brunel” perfectly illustrates the way in which the activities of the estate and the trading house intertwine. Right from the start with the supply of juice that comes from 3 different sources:
- The estate first, divided into three main areas: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (21 ha including two of white), Travaillan-Uchaux and Saint-Genies de Comolas in the Gard (more than 60 ha of Côtes du Rhône and 'IGP): “We had a slightly aging vineyard, which needed to be replanted, details Fabrice Brunel. What we did with the same grape varieties but in different proportions: more Grenache and less Syrah. Today, the Grenache from the trade comes from us and we buy Syrah outside because we have little in our vineyards”.
- Then the partner winegrowers with whom the House has been working for years and who sell all or a large part of their harvest to the Brunel family. "It's going fast," emphasizes Fabrice. Three or four winegrowers with estates of around fifty hectares, that quickly adds up to a few hundred or a few thousand hl”.
- Finally, the classic bulkers which make it possible to complete the assemblies according to the needs.
In the end, the production of the trading house - officially registered under the surprising name of La Cerise - represents the equivalent of 800/900,000 bottles (compared to 300,000 for the estate). This production should increase since since last year, Fabrice Brunel's company has started to buy grapes. “As we have enlarged the size of the cellar, we can fit in more”. Grapes from the estate's vines first which, once replanting is complete, will be at full production capacity in 2025: 95 ha in total, i.e. 30 ha more than today. And the grapes of new winegrower-partners: 15 ha in Vaison-la-Romaine and a little less in Travaillan. All in Côtes du Rhône.
This additional source of supply allows the merchant to control an additional step in the development of his cuvées: the aging and conservation of the wine, the owner taking care only of the harvest. “By vinifying ourselves, we have the wine profile we want”. In 2021, the first year of the implementation of this new system, everything went well.
Going for a few hectos in Vacqueyras or in another Rhône Valley appellation is not on the agenda: “There are no requests from our customers. Besides, we already have enough to do with our 90 hectares of vines and our business in generic Côtes du Rhône”. Fabrice Brunel's objective is rather to complete the replanting in order to be able to supply most of his own business, which would allow him to buy less juice from outside.
“But I would like to develop Châteauneuf-du-Pape negociant because we do little of it and there is a real possibility there. Because in our range, I would say that between the Côtes du Rhône villages and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape domain, there is in terms of price a space in which a Châteauneuf-du-Pape negociant would find its place”.
Always with the idea of ​​progressing on his range of wines, Fabrice is considering the possibility of making more rosé for the moment sold only in bulk. But there is no question of launching into the bottle without first having found the markets. Because the winegrower-merchant of Châteauneuf, even if he is fond of innovations, knows that he must consolidate his bases before moving forward. By always keeping rooted in him “the desire to make wine that pleases those who drink it, without being financially unaffordable”. A mission he has set himself and in which his trading house actively participates.
The estate: with an area of ​​110 hectares of land, 95 of which are planted; they will all be in production by 2025. It was Lucien Brunel, Fabrice's grandfather, who in 1954 created the Les Cailloux brand. Originally covering an area of ​​21 ha of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the estate has grown with successive acquisitions of Côtes du Rhône and Vin de Pays de Vaucluse.
The trading house: chaired today by Fabrice Brunel, it was officially registered in 2005 by André Brunel (who died at the beginning of the year) who named it “La Cerise”. But it is better known as “Les Vins André Brunel”.
6 cuvées x 2: two Châteauneuf-du-Pape (one white and one red), one Côtes du Rhône villages and 3 generic Côtes du Rhône for the estate. Ditto for the Trading House + a Vin de France.
Distribution networks: different for the two entities with one thing in common: 80% of sales are exported. In the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. Given the international context and its vagaries, there is a desire at Fabrice Brunel to shift part of his exports back to France and a little more to the individual.
Contact: 6 chemin du Bois de la Ville in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Tel: 04 90 83 72 62 / Mail: