Last month I attended Provence in the City, hosted by Vins de Provence. Over 25 winemakers met with wine industry and media folks at the Public Hotel’s historic Pump Room in Chicago. It was a gorgeous spring-like day in typically chilly-in-February Chicago. The afternoon’s wine was offered alongside a buffet-in-courses; some of my favorite elements were the spring green salad with a tasty carrot miso dressing, delicate fruit tarts and a rich cheese selection. I spent several hours at the walk-around tasting, enjoying the wine and relishing the conversation.
I took tasting and experience notes for this piece and also for a very complete and stylish story by Susan Manfull at Provence WineZine, for which I am a contributor and for this event served as the Chicago correspondent. For all the details from Susan’s trip to the Boston event and a solid background on Provence rosé in general, you simply must read her piece, Provence in the City: My Glass Runneth Over with Rosé.
It Seems Everyone Loves Rosé
“Great rosé is…is a brilliant essay in finesse and restraint.” ~Decanter
The spring tasting tour arrived on the heels of strong sales figures for Provençal rosé exports to the US. A press release from the CIVP/Vins de Provence reveals that exports of rosé to the US have experienced a 58% increase in sales volume of the last year.
According to Vins de Provence, “The Revue Vinicole Internationale referenced industry experts…the reasons for rosé’s growing popularity likely include the rise of younger, more adventurous wine consumers, an appealing color, and attractive price point and an accessible, food-friendly flavor profile.” I’m inclined to think that the generous, elegant and friendly nature of Provence winemakers, estate staff and négotiants, particularly at events such as Provence in the City, will favorably contribute to this growing trend.
Provencal Wines are Special
“Provence is the world’s largest wine region specializing in AOP rosé wine. It is also the site of France’s oldest vineyards, with a 2,600-year history of rosé winemaking. Provence is know not only as the ‘locus of rosé’s spiritual soul’ but also as the quality leader.” ~ Vins de Provence
I’ve written lots about rosé here on L’occasion. My trips to Provence (to research my recently completed novel about Provençal vignerons) have provided me with memorable opportunities to meet winemakers and taste an incredible amount of outstanding wine. And though I’m familiar with the wines of the region, the Provence in the City event introduced me to a slate of winemakers who were new to me.
I had captivating conversations with several estates about new developments at their facilities; these conversations are particularly interesting to me because they tell the story of modern winemaking in Provence, a region that offers unfailing welcome and appeal. Though the numbers certainly show Provence wines are popular, selling well in the US and UK, I’d like to propose that the wines are more than figures…each one tells the distinct story of terroir, echoes the dreams and efforts of the winemakers and stirs the imagination of those of us that love Provence.
Rosé was plentiful, but I was pleased to taste several reds and whites, which to me bear the distinct taste of the region beautifully. I’d love to see a greater availability of these wines in the international marketplace and it’s my hope that Provence in the City tasting events have furthered the interest in the complex and balanced wines.
“Hands down, one of the most underrated wine regions in France. ” ~Hilarie Larson, via WineFolly, on Provence
Highlights of Provence in the City
Domaine Tour Campanets
Emmanuelle BAUDE, proprietor of Domaine Tour Campanets, poured her three rosés at the event. All were lovely, particularly Bois de Fées (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon). Emmanuelle has a fresh and passionate perspective that is incredibly engaging. She told me that she has a hand in every aspect of making her wines, from vineyard to winery to distribution. She even designs her own beautiful labels, which are made to stand up to a bath in ice water; your bottle of Domaine Tour Campanets could sit by the pool for hours in a bucket of ice and the label would still be perfect. While this is a simple detail, her atmosphere evokes the sum of many well-considered details blended together to exhibit a flawless presentation of Provençal wines. When I commented about all that work keeping her busy, Emmanuelle said:
“My work is my passion & my passion is my work.”
While the domaine is new to the US market, it has been awarded generously in Europe, including a gold medal for the Bois de Fées from the International Wine Competition. Contact info: http://www.domaine-tour-campanets; route de Rognes,13610 Le Puy Sainte Réparade.
Château Réal d’Or
Francois LÉTHIER, proprietor, brought with him his associate Christophe BARCAT. The gentlemen poured a selection of Château Réal d’Or wines, including a very special prestige bottle of rosé called Monoco Monte-Carlo, a blend of Syrah and Grenache under the Côtes-de-Provence AOP. I found this to be a complex and balanced wine that impressed me with its flavor profile. I was also interested to hear of the new winemaking facility enhancements that Létheir has put into place since taking the helm. I look forward to taking a visit to the winery next time I’m in the area and I anticipate sampling their red wine, which wasn’t available in Chicago. Contact info: http://www.chateau-realdor.com; route des Mayons, La Tuilière, 83590 Gonfaron
Château Du Seuil
Meeting Nicolas TOUCHARD from Château du Seuil was a highlight for several reasons. Nicolas was very generous in conversation; he shared with me many details regarding updates and changes to the estate (details forthcoming in another piece). Nicolas brought with him three wines, a rosé, a red and white. All of them were impressive, in particular the 2009 Chateau Grand Seuil Rouge from Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. This wine’s distinct profile brought me back to Provence; something about the sips reminded me deeply of my time there, tasting wines and enjoying the food, people, sights and sounds of the South of France.
Nicolas had a philosophy in mind when he brought more than only rosé wines with him to Chicago. The red and white, both aged several years, were present to illustrate to American drinkers that Provence is capable of more than drink-fresh rosé. It’s my personal belief that the scope of wines made in Provence aren’t fully represented by the US market, but messages and experiences such as the one offered by Château du Seuil will positively impact this deficit. Contact information: http://www.chateaudeseuil.fr; 4690 route du Seuil 13540 Puyricard.
Provence Wine Maker (Rosé Infinitie)
Benjamin MEI, director of Provence Winemaker, offered a gorgeous display to accompany his Rose Infinie wines from Côtes de Provence. His Syrah/Grenache rosé was particularly refreshing. Benjamin also brought along a white wine, made of the regional Rolle varietal (also knows as Vermentino), which was very delicate. I enjoyed speaking with Benjamin, a Provence native who had previously made wine in Chile for years. It was his love for Provence that brought him back to Aix-en-Provence to craft wines that represent the terroir of his homeland. His perspective on winemaking in two very different places was interesting and compelled me consider his wide range of experience, which I hope to hear much more about. Contact information: http://www.pwm.fr; Héliosis A, 220, rue Denis Papin 13857 Aix en Provence.
Château Carpe Diem
Albéric PHILIPON of family-run Château Carpe Diem brought two delightful rosés to Chicago, one of which really got my attention. Castille, a Côtes de Provence, is a blend of Grenache and Cinsault and only 3,000 bottles are available for the US market. Albéric told an interesting story that the harvest of the grapes for this wine happened on the same day that his daughter was born…both of which now bear the name Castille. His 2013 red, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache blend named Major was superb. Estate grown and bottled, harvested manually from 40 year-old-vines and aged 12 months in French oak in an underground cellar, it was clear that this wine was made with compete care and regard for refinement. Only 2,000 are available for distribution in the US and I’d definitely like to have a few in my cellar. Contact information: http://www.chateaucarpediem.com; 4436 route de Carcès 83570 Contignac.
Château Sainte Marguerite
Jean-Pierre FAYARD, proprietor, told me a story about his family-owned estate. He said that there is picture of his own sons when they were very young, posed to look as if they were pruning the vines. Now the sons are indeed old enough to be in business with their father and make the beautiful wines that Jean-Pierre brought to Chicago. His wines are certified organic and I’m told that some bear a vegan label. I tasted two rosés as well as a white, the 2014 made of Rolle. I was particularly impressed by the Symphony, a Côtes de Provence rosé, which was quite delicate and possessed a clean minerality. This wine experiences cold skin contact maceration before pressing. Contact information: http://www.chateausaintemarguerite.com; 303 chemin de Haut Pansard 83250 La Londe les Maures.
Estadon happened to be the first estate I visited when I arrived at Provence in the City. Jérôme DEGONDE presented three rosés, one Côtes de Provence and two Coteaux Varois en Provence. These wines have six-figure availability in the US and I’m definitely planning on getting some for myself. Contact information: http://www.estadon.fr; 727 Bd Bernard Long, Les Consacs, CS 90300 83175 Brignoles Cedex.
Mirabeau en Provence
Earlier this year I had an email chat with Mirabeau’s Stephen Cronk for Provence WineZine (You can read the article here) about the 2015 rosé assemblage. Stephen was optimistic about the 2015s and I was excited to sample both the Classique and Pure. These wines are night harvested from select vineyards and they’ve both been awarded generously and maintain high scores from Robert Parker. I enjoyed chatting with Tom Warner, sales manager, who poured the wines and gave vistors the background on this estate, run by Stephen and his wife, Jeany, British expats that have a sincere passion for the Provençal life. Contact information: http://www.mirabeauwine.com; 5 cours Gambetta 83570 Contignac.
Saint André de Figuière
Magali COMBARD represented her second generation, family-run, estate and brought with her a beautiful set of Côtes de Provence rosés and a Côtes de Provence white blend. The estate creates four lines, each comprised of a rosé, a red and a white: Confidentielle, Première (both estate wines), Signature and Le Saint André (both sourced from regional winegrowers). The Signature series wines each bear the signature of one of three children of the estate “giving this range of wines a family feel”. They also offer a rosé made by méthode traditionnelle: Atmosphére. Chatting with Magali was a pleasure; she was a warm representative of this family-run domaine. Contact information: http://www.figuiere-provence.com; 605 route de Saint Honoré BP 47 – 83250 La Londe les Maures.
Domaine Terre de Mistral
Laura MARTIN, export manager, poured two rosés (one Côtes de Provence and one Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire) and a lovely Côtes de Provence white. This estate creates wine under the Vigneron Independent and Nutrition Méditerranée designations. The estate also crafts olive oil grown from their 20 hectares of olive groves. I have a personal preference for wines made from vines grown near olive groves, and this estate would be on my short list to visit so that I could enjoy the setting. Contact information: http://www.terre-de-mistral.com; Route de Peynier 13790 Rousset.
There Are More Stories to Tell
I wasn’t able to taste every wine or visit every participant, which makes me curious (and a bit regretful) of what I may have missed. All of the wines were exceptionally pleasant; no doubt any of them will make American wine-lovers very happy.
If there is a winery that I haven’t mentioned, it certainly isn’t because I had a negative impression. I seek Provençal winemakers and estates to cover here on L’occasion and for Provence WineZine and I’m very interested in hearing the stories of Provençal winemakers and wine estates, and if any readers (or winemakers) have a recommendation of an estate that would make an interesting feature winery, please reach out via email or contact form.
Vins de Provence Resources
Other L’occasion Provence Wine Articles
And, while not included in this particular event, I’ve written about the Vignerons of Les Baux de Provence, a nearby AOP: