Vincent Grall is Sancerre’s answer to the garagiste phenomenon. Although he hails from a winemaking family, he did not inherit a great domaine, he was not handed the keys to expansive winemaking facilities bursting with all the most modern equipment, and his father did not bequeath him prestigious parcels of vines on Les Monts Damnés, Le Cul de Beaujeu or Le Chêne Marchand. No, Vincent started out from scratch, with nothing more than a little viticultural and winemaking knowledge. And, of course, a garage.
To understand the facilities in which Vincent Grall works you have to forget any knowledge you may have of the garage wineries of Bordeaux. You certainly have to cast from your mind any notion that this is a garage that resembles the one in the possession of that most famous of garagistes, Jean-Luc Thunevin. I have been in Jean-Luc’s garage and it is a veritable rabbit warren of useful space, around every corner another useful nook, niche or cranny, some of these ‘crannies’ capable of holding capacious fermentation vessels. I once spent several hours at a tasting in Jean-Luc’s garage and never set eyes on him, as he was lost in the throng, in the deeper, darker recesses.
Vincent Grall’s winery, located on the Avenue Nationale which continues as the Rempart des Augustins and runs around the northern periphery of the town, really is garage-sized. I called in one evening a couple of years ago; harvest was in full swing, and Vincent was just finishing his clean-up after a hard day’s picking, pressing and vatting. The press seemed to take up most of the entrance way, and I recall squeezing in though a narrow gap between the press and the wall in order to gain entrance. Such are the cramped conditions that, during the day, the sorting table is placed out in the street. At the back of the garage, there are a few barrels, and save for a tiny table and a few chairs that was it. Vincent is a true garagiste in all possible senses of the word.