Claude Lafond, who saved the small Central Loire appellation of Reuilly from extinction, has died at the age of 63.

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Claude Lafond died at home during the night of Saturday and Sunday from a heart attack.

Reuilly is the most westerly of the Loire’s Central Vineyards. Although Reuilly became a appellation for its whites (Sauvignon Blanc) as early as 1937 and later in 1961 for rosés (Pinot Gris) and reds (Pinot Noir) by the late 1970s there were just 48 hectares in production. Most of the wine was for home consumption.

It was opportune that in 1977 Lafond aged 25, took over the family’ vines on the death of his father – André. Then they only had 6.5 hectares of vines. Now Domaine Claude Lafond has 43 hectares in production – 35 in Reuilly, 3 in AC Valençay and 5 in IGP Val de Loire at Argentan in the Creuse Valley.

Crucially Lafond persuaded others to plant vines in Reuilly mainly local cereal producers – the area is dominated by cereal production ­ to plant vines. In 1992 he was the major mover in creating the Chai de Reuilly, where local producers shared winemaking facilities, while keeping their wine separate. Previously most sold their grapes to a now defunct local cooperative.

When his daughter decided to join the family domaine, Lafond built an impressive, modern winery, which was opened in May 2012 next to the Chai de Reuilly. Lafond’s new winery is a dramatic sign of the change in Reuilly’s fortunes: there are now 230 hectares in production.

Benoît Roumet, director of the Vins du Centre Loire said: “Claude had a true vision and co-operative strategy to develop Reuilly. He was always open to new ideas. With Clos des Messieurs he was the first to make a single vineyard wine from Reuilly. Recognising the importance of wine tourism his new winery has a large space to receive visitors.”

In addition to his energy, vision and generosity, Claude Lafond had a well-developed, impish sense of humour. He will be greatly missed.

Updated 06/10/15: When Claude Lafond took over the family business there were 6.5ha of vines, not 3.5 as first stated.