Graillot is owned by Robert Walters, well known for his role with Bibendum Wine Co., which (inter alia) imports fine wines from various parts of Europe, with France to the fore. He has imported the wines of Alain Graillot, one of the superstars of the northern Rhone Valley (in Crozes-Hermitage) for many years. The two become good friends during that time, and in 2010 that friendship took a new turn with the establishment of Graillot. Exports to Canada, France The Netherlands, South Africa, Hong Kong and Japan.
As you might expect from a venture hoping to produce high quality wines, this story begins with a vineyard. The vineyard in question is in Colbinabbin, and has a pure easterly exposure and a thin layer of red/brown, eroded Basalt (the famous Cambrian soils) over limestone rich sub soils that have a pH of close to neutral. For us, this sub soil, and the alkalinity it gifts, is far more significant than the thin topsoil. After several visits to the vineyard and after tasting a number of different base and finished wines that were already being made from here, I became convinced that this was a place capable of producing very pure, elegant, aromatic and high quality Syrah. I realized that such a site offered the opportunity of producing a wine that was not at all typical of most Australian Syrah based wines. A wine that highlighted purity and precision over power. As it turned out, this was an idea that also appealed strongly to Alain Graillot.
I import the renowned Crozes-Hermitage of Alain Graillot, albeit in tiny quantities. On a trip to France, not long after I started my meddling, I got speaking to Alain about Australian Syrah. He had been sent many bottles by Australian winemakers and he quite openly told me that while some were very good wines, they were far too heavy for his tastes. Of course we could both name some elegant examples of Australian Syrah but we lamented that these were in the radical minority. Anyway, I mentioned to Alain the project I was ‘working on’ and to my surprise Alain seemed genuinely interested. Was he interested enough to get involved I asked? If I could convince him that indeed I was working with a site that could grow the kind of wines he liked and could produce Syrah of a high enough quality, well, why not? With one caveat: everything would ultimately depend on the quality of wine we were able to grow. If the wines were not of a standard he could accept, then he was out.
I would like to make it clear that Alain’s role in this project has been critical – despite the limitations of distance. In fact it is patently clear to me (and anyone else who has been involved in the project) that we could not have achieved anywhere near the quality or style of wine that we have managed with the Graillot Syrah 2010 without Alain’s direct involvement. His input into the vineyard, winemaking and blending has had an immediate major impact. For this reason I wanted to name the wine after him. Alain’s involvement has been nothing short of a revelation. Much of his advice has directly contradicted the guidance I had previously received, most notably in the areas of vineyard management, barrel aging, when & how to bottle, and blending. The simple fact is that without Alain, this project would not succeed.