‘The reason for my success is I do everything as it would have been done by our ancestors in years gone by’Englishman Paul Eden is in total control of his operation in the south of France. He should be – he does everything himself, from planting the vines in Baixas and Calce, (on land owned by biodynamics enthusiast Gérard Gauby) to pruning, bottling, labelling and selling his wines.
This approach hasn't prevented Paul from making a name for himself, even though he only started his business, Le Petit Eden, in 2015. He now has six lines, including Red Magic (Syrah), Com els vells temps (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan), La Diversio, Le Master Plan (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), L’Ordonnance (Grenache Noir), La Grande Journee and Mia.
“It’s been an interesting project,” he says. “I do everything myself by hand, the pruning, the labels, I was using an old press from 1905 for the first two years and now one from 1930. The reason for my success is I do everything as it would have been done by our ancestors in years gone by.
'I’ve managed to put my wine into the best restaurants and cavistes in Montpellier'“I’ve managed to put my wine into the best restaurants and cavistes in Montpellier. I have no formal education and no studies behind it, I’ve done it all based on instinct. I shadowed my brother James (who owns Cau Eden near Perpignan) at the beginning on how to make wine. He started his business in 2010 and I moved to the region in 2012, then two years later I started my own business and bought two vineyards.
“The rest is history. I’ve had enormous success thanks to my sales network, first by selling my brother’s wine then going on to sell my wine.”
Paul sells his wine by word of mouth and direct sales and 95% of people who have tried the red, Red Magic, have bought it on-site.
“It’s been a great learning curve. One of my first bottles was ‘La Diversio’, which means fun in Catalan and represents the first year of my business which was more about producing the wine, establishing a brand, experimenting and ‘having fun’. Now it’s become more than a project and is more serious,” he says.
All of Paul’s wines are organic and produced in Baixas and Calce, north of Perpignan.
“The French think I am crazy for doing it all myself and I agree with them. If someone had told me I’d be doing this three years ago, I would never have thought it was possible because you have to put in 80-100 hours a week,” he explains.
“It’s a highly competitive industry and when I walk into a bar or restaurant to offer a tasting you have to be different and better than the rest. They don’t want you to waste their time, but I have found people are proud to be where they are from and they prefer to buy from people they know in the same region.
“It’s nice to be able to put my wine in front of people and get their honest feedback. I learn more about my wine this way because their palettes are more experienced and evolved regarding the terroir, so when they taste what I have made their opinion has more of an impact than when I taste it and from a marketing perspective it’s good to know where to pitch my wine.”
Paul is no stranger to the south of France, as his mother was born here. Brother James helped the entrepreneur to find the land in which he grows his vines, part of Domaine Gauby, on the slopes of the Agly valley. The valley does not possess a specific wine appellation. Instead, it relies on the Côtes du Roussillon for red wines or the IGP Côtes Catalanes for whites.
This year, Paul plans to launch a grappa made from his grapeskins. He also wants to start tours and tastings at his cellar.
This article first appeared in our sister publication Beveragedaily.com