Domaine Launay Horiot
The story of Xavier Horiot, the owner and now wine maker of Domaine Lauray Horiot is nothing but astonishing. This drama consists of family dispute, greed, passion, lawyers and court case that lasted 11 years, combined with the impossible French inheritance and tax laws and the stratospheric market value of vineyards in Burgundy over the last two decades.
The Launay family settled in Pommard in the 18th century and over the years acquired impressive set of vineyards: The 4 hectares domaine includes the 2.2 ha Pommard Les Perrieres vineyard which was originally planted in 1902, a superb array of old vines Pommard 1er Cru vineyards including 0.09 ha Les Rugien Bas, 0.59 ha Les Chaponnieres and 0.17 ha Clos Blanc, and two exceptional holdings of Grand Cru vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin: an 0.17 ha of Latricieres Chambertin (located next to Pierre Duroche’s vines), and an 0.16 ha holding of Chambertin located next to the vines of no other but Lalou Bize-Leroy.
The drama started with the death of Raymond Launay in 2000. He left his 4 hectare domaine, to his daughter and to his grandson Xavier Horiot – just to realize before his death that his daughter had no intention of continuing the family domaine but just wanted to sell it off and cash the land, a fact that broke his heart. But unfortunately, due to the French inheritance laws he could do nothing about that.
Xavier, who served in the French air force as fighter jet pilot, was determined to follow his beloved grandfather’s wishes, his passion and his dreams to revive the Domaine and make wine from his family’s vineyards.
After 11-year battle in French courts, which drained his resources but made him ever more determined to fulfill his dreams, finally in 2011 the court had ruled in his favor and handed the precious vineyards to his possession. (The irony was that his aunt who fought him for all these years in court died 2 months after the court’s ruling and had no heirs).
Xavier quit his service in the air force and returned to Pommard to restart the difficult revival process of the domaine. Luckily, over all these years the vineyards were being taken care of by good hands, and the vines gained age. He decided to start slowly, and for the first 3 years while he started to establish the winery from scratch with virtually no financial capabilities, he worked the vineyards, made experiments with his grapes and sold most of the grapes to other producers to gather capital to enable him purchase equipment required for both the vineyards’ work and vinification.
In 2014 he felt ready to start making his own wines with the close help from the talented consultant Veronique Girard (using his own words, Xavier “felt that Pommard would benefit from woman’s touch”). Critics started visiting him (Tim Atkin was the first one, followed by Allen Meadows, Michel Betanne and others). Instantly there was general consensus that the wines from the Village Pommard to the 1er Crus are uniquely gentle expression of Pommards, all promising and highly enjoyable, to the two Grand Crus, Latricieres Chambertin and the Chambertin that are both brilliant expression of their relative teroirs.
The wines from the 2015 vintage show that the hard work and determination of Xavier paid off, and the wines started to gain general recognition among serious Burgundy lovers, and all critics without exception praised them and rewarded them with consistent high scores and notes spanning from “Sweet spot outstanding” to “Don’t miss!”.
Tasting the 2016s from barrel convinced us that the trend continues, as the wines already show their balance, purity and charm at this early stage of their development.
We have no doubt that the future of Domaine Launay-Horiot in Xavier’s hands is brilliant.