Domaine Vaquer has been in the family for four generations, beginning in 1912 when Pierre Vila bought the property. A salesman by trade, he worked the vines on the side and sold the wine he made to négociants. The current family name came from his son-in-law Fernand Vaquer, who is better known as a national rugby champion, but who also helped out at the estate, because rugby was an amateur sport at the time and brought in very little profit. His son, Fernand Jr,, later signed on, and in 1947 they planted the Carignan vines that are still used for the Cuvée Exception. While his father racked up rugby championship titles as player, team captain, and coach, the younger Fernand decided to dedicate himself to the family domaine. In 1968 he became one of the region’s first to bottle his own wine, labeling it “Roussillon des Aspres” to highlight the importance of a terroir that would eventually be recognized with its own AOC.
Fernand’s son, Bernard followed in his father’s footsteps. He signed up for an enology program in Dijon and there met his future wife, Frédérique, who worked with him side-by-side. Bernard died in 2001, but Frédérique continues to run the estate today, and says that she consults with her father-in-law almost day by day.
Roussillon’s newest AOC, Côtes-du-Roussillon Les Aspres, was only officially recognized thirty-five years after the Vaquer family first touted it on their label. Les Aspres, meaning “arid” in Catalan, is known for its galets roulés (much like Châteauneuf-du-Pape) that store heat during the day and offer it back up to the vines at night. Frédérique seeks to bring out the character of the terroir in each of her wines while always maintaining a certain finesse and elegance. As a native Burgundian she is pleased by the common observation that her wines pinotent, or resemble Pinot Noir, although this trait was recognized at the Domaine Vaquer long before she arrived.