Joe & Patrick in the vineyard with Cedric Gravier
“We used to say that rosé wasn’t a real wine, but now it is,” said Cedric Gravier, the winegrower and proprietor at Domaine la Suffrene. In 2003/2004, the production of rosé wines in Bandol surpassed that of red, and currently rosé now totals 70% of all wine produced in Bandol, “But we hope it’ll go down to 50%,” added Cedric, “so we can make more red.” And though most everyone knows that best red wines in Provence come from Bandol, after having the opportunity to taste through a number of vintages of the Domaine la Suffrene Bandol “Les Lauves”, including Cedric’s first vintage in 1996, we can most certainly attest to his desire or need to make more red.
Paul Vendran of La Ferme St Pierre, in the vineyard
“With French oak, it seems that more barrels are being made than trees,” said Paul Vendran, the winegrower/proprietor at La Ferme St Pierre in Côte de Ventoux. ”At least with American oak, you know what you’re getting,” he added. ”Bordeaux and Burgundy get priority from [French] coopers, not Ventoux.” A hunter and a cyclist who speaks freely of flights full of fisherman from Frankfurt to Anchorage, Paul is not a man of few words, but he’s also not a vintner to labor over the language of his work in the vineyards or cellar.
With three châteaux to their name, the Sumeire family has lived near Mont Sainte Victoire since the 13th century. Located by the base of Mt. Sainte Victoire, near Aix-en-Provence, the vineyards of Château Coussin once supported vines as far back as 102 B.C., and were later cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans who produced exclusively rosé. Fast forward to the 18th century, the underground cellar that now serves as the family’s residential dining room was where wine was once made by the château’s namesake, Esprit Jean-Baptiste Coussin. In 1903 Jean-Baptiste Gautier, of the Sumeire ancestral line, purchased the country house (pictured above) which is adjoined to the current winery and is where the family now resides. Releasing their first vintage in 1983, the Sumeire family wine is now vinified by Olivier Sumeire – an eighth generation winemaker– who took to the cellar’s helm in 2001.
From the first solo vintage of Julie Belland, the sixth generation vintner/daughter of Roger Belland, comes Domaine Roger Belland Satenay 1er Cru “Beauregard” 2009. In the family since 1839, the Domaine holds 23ha, 3.04ha of which are located in the 1er Cru Beauregard. Divided amongst four parcels, all of which are facing southeast, and can be viewed here, the 30-year-old Pinot Noir vines are planted to soils of fairly stony clay-limestone. To eliminate the need for treatments, the Bellands keep grass between the rows of vines, which helps maintain the structure of the soil while preventing any possible dilution of fruit.
Nathalie Fabre standing in lieu-dit Mont-Redon amongst the vines of Grenache planted by her grandfather in 1927
Nathalie Fabre left the tasting room at Domaine de l’Harmas and returned with a typewritten document from 1933, with much greater speed than it would have taken to locate the document online. Her grandfather, Bois Lauzon, had joined the fight to create the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, and this was the document that she inherited, along with 3.5ha in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, split between three different parcels, including a 1ha plot in the lieu-dit Mont-Redon. With the lieu-dit Boislauzon named for her grandfather, which is now farmed by her siblings, Daniel and Christine Chaussey at Mas de Boislauzon, her family has been farming in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for five generations.
“Wines have been made here for 2000 years,” said Aurélien Pont, the winemaker at Domaine de Chateau Pigoudet since 2008. ”One mile south, you can see a Roman cellar, the second largest in the world,” where one can find 50HL and 20HL Roman amphora. With 40ha of vineyards facing north, south, west and east, Chateau Pigoudet is situated at 400m above sea level, at the furtherest most north-eastern point of Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. Surrounded by pine trees, the slopes –home to the best parcels– are planted to Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the plains to Cinsault and Grenache. ”For 120 years, wines have been made here,” he later added, pointing to the the exposed wooden beams in the cellar where one can see inscriptions dated to 1910.
Marc Pichon of Anne Pichon
Walking past barrels in the cellar of Anne Pichon‘s Domaine de Murmurium, Marc Pichon squeezes through a sliver between the wall and racks of wine, and motions for us to follow. The ceiling is low and the space is tight, a true lemon-squeezer, but we are on his heels and surprised find ourselves in a partially excavated cellar. Eager to view the property’s soil profile of limestone with sand and stone, we didn’t expect to find it in Pichon’s cellar where it could, at any moment, topple upon our heads, but that is the nature of Pichon, a true “Sauvage” of a winemaker from Côte de Ventoux.
We’re on the road in France, but wanted to share a few images before we head back to NYC.
Big thanks to the amazing growers and vignerons who have welcomed us into their homes!
Cecile Dusserre of Domaine de Montvac in Vacqueyras
Just as Antonio Galloni withdrew his connection to The Wine Advocate, Domaine Gourt de Mautens has opted to depart from the AOC Rasteau. Once the estate’s proprietor Jerome Bressy learned that the varietal Picardan would be excluded from the AOC classification, alongside a required reduction of other minor varietals to less than 15% of any AOC Rasteau blend, Jerome decided to relabel his wines as IGP Vaucluse.
A rebranding of sorts that will not lead to Bressy’s being sued by the AOC, Jerome has taken it one step further by deciding to also declassify his 2011 and 2010 vintages.
Scenes from the vineyards at Château le Coteau
When seeking “modestly priced Bordeaux”, we look for grower producers. Riding the wave of enthusiasm for Bordeaux that was generated at BurdiGala, Eric Asimov wrote last week about the recent turn-around in the general perception of Bordeaux from “widespread dismissal” to championed “underdog”. And while we certainly do not disparage the general climate that Asimov detailed, we do wish to illuminate the fact that one needn’t settle for “lesser appellations” when seeking moderately priced Bordeaux wines from grower producers. Read more