Michel Lafarge will be remembered as much for his humility as for his winemaking skill at his eponymous winery in Volnay, although that is not to diminish either of those qualities.
‘He was the wise man [among us],’ said Thiebault Huber, president of the Burgundy winegrowers’ union, CAVB. ‘You could always ask him for advice and he never refused,’ he told Decanter.com.
Lafarge, who joined his father at the family-owned domaine in the late 1940s after World War Two, was also a trailblazer in Burgundy, being among the first small-scale producers to begin bottling his own wines for export, according to Huber.
Under his guidance, as well as through working with his son, Frédéric, Domaine Michel Lafarge has become one of the most sought-after names in Volnay in the Côte de Beaune.
In the vineyard, Lafarge had long rejected the use of chemicals and the estate converted its 12ha of vineyards to biodynamics at around the turn of the century, gaining certification with Demeter.
It was a move that set an example for neighbouring growers to follow, said Huber, who added that Lafarge held true to his principles of terroir and winemaking throughout his life.
Burgundy expert Clive Coates MW named Domaine Lafarge as one of his favourite producers in the region, in a feature for Decanter magazine published in 2008.
‘Michel Lafarge is one of the shrewdest winemakers in Burgundy, and a perfectionist. His son Frédéric is a worthy – I was going to say second in command, but this a joint effort.’
Of Domaine Michel Lafarge’s Clos des Chênes premier cru from Volnay, Coates said, ‘[It’s] from the best part; the lower slopes, next to the main road, of what is arguably the best red-wine vineyard in the Côte de Beaune.
‘This is Volnay at its finest, although it needs time: fragrant, elegant, balanced, and velvety smooth, if you are prepared to wait.’
Becky Wasserman-Hone, who is credited with putting many Burgundy wines on the international stage, has known and worked with Lafarge for several decades, and has previously credited Michel with giving her invaluable insight into the region’s wines in her early years.
Frédéric Lafarge, who began working at the domaine in 1978, now co-manages the estate with his wife, Chantal. Their daughter, Clothilde, has also joined the team.