We’ve all had the experience of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps with disastrous consequences. This is exactly what happened on July 1st to Raimond de Villeneuve’s vines, which found themselves the direct target of a violent hailstorm. In 7 minutes, an entire year’s work was wiped out.
Hail is merciless as it blasts leaves and the budding fruit like buck shot from a shotgun, reducing the crop to nothing. All was lost.
When I visited on July 25th, de Villeneuve, a much-beleaguered man, had gone on holiday with his family to escape this forlorn scene of devastation.
Château de Roquefort vines after the storm
This is not, however, a story of disaster. It is one of friendship and generosity, and triumph over adversity. Thirty-five wineries donated grapes so that the Château de Roquefort could have a 2012 vintage. Three wines, a red, a rosé and a white, all called, simply, ‘Grêle’ 2012.
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The view from the terrace
Château de Roquefort is close to La Ciotat and Bandol, traditional fishing villages on the Mediterranean and regions renowned not just for their rosés, but for their dense rich Mourvedre dominant reds as well. But the grapes for this rosé came from *vineyards as far as 100 kilometres away and so there is no AOC attached. It is a fine blend of grapes from any number of the 36 different vineyards (including the 15 kilos – all that remained from Roquefort itself), most of them working with the precept that wine is made in the vineyard and so soil and vine are treated respectfully using biodynamic and organic methods.
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The Château de Roquefort
I tasted the Rosé last night at L’Etiquette on the Ile St Louis, one of Paris’ best wine shops. It has exclusively biodynamic, organic and natural wines (no chemical inputs in any stage of the wine making).
The rosé has a beautiful orangey pink colour with lovely floral notes of almond flower and resin, but is especially gratifying in the mouth with its lively, vinous palate of elegantly harmonious fresh grape flavours, great presence and concentration exhibiting confidence and balance and a smooth, refreshing finish. It is a triumph and a steal at 13.80€. We look forward with anticipation and enthusiasm to the release of the reds (one cuvee is scheduled to appear around Easter this year, while the other, to be laid down, probably not for another year).
So there was a silver lining in this dark cloud, which also reminds us of the power of wine to create community and foster friendship. Bravo wine friends, for this generous gesture of solidarity that has transmuted grief into celebration. And bravo Raimond de Villeneuve, for the worthiness of this masterful wine!
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*The appellations include Bandol, Cassis, the Coteaux Varois, Ste Victoire, the Coteaux d’Aix, Les Baux de Provence, Côte du Rhône, Cornas, Rasteau, Cairanne, Châteauneuf-du-pape… with the same diversity in terms of varietals (grenache, mourvèdre, carignan, syrah, cabernet, cinsault, etc.). He collected a total of 1,100 hectolitres (as opposed to 1,200 for the previous year), but will likely be compelled to complement this year’s harvest as well as an estimated 50% of the vines will not recover for another year.
The ‘who’s who of the wine community
Chateau Ste Anne, Domaine De St. Bacchi, Domaine Du Bagnol, Domaine De La Bastide Blanche, Domaine Les Beates, Chateau De Beaupre, Domaine De La Begude, Domaines Bunan, Domaine Du Coulet, Domaine La Fourmente, Domaine De Gayolle, Domaine Henri Milan, Mas Juliette, Chateau Lacoste, Domaine Saintlouis Jayne, Domaine Les Luquettes, Chateau Les Mesclances, Domaine De La Mongestine, Domaines Ott, Chateau De Pibarnon, Domaine Pinchinat, Chateau Pradeaux, Domaine De La Realtiere, Chateau Revelette, Domaine Richeaume, Domaine Sorin, Domaine La Suffrene, Domaine De Sulauze, Domaine Tempier, Domaine Les Terres Promises, Domaine De La Tour Du Bon, Domaine Du Trapadis, Domaine De Trevallon, Chateau Vignelaure, Domaine De Villeneuve and Chateau De Roquefort (with 15 kg)
*Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet, Merlot, Ugni, Clairette, Rolle, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, D’origine, Selon Les Provenances, De Bandol, Cassis, Coteaux Varois, Cotes De Provence, Coteaux D’aix, Les Baux De Provence, Cotes Du Rhone, Chateauneuf Du Pape, Rasteau, Cornas.sauvignon.