Fliss, Tim’s wife is writing today’s blog.
Every local we meet says “this weather is very unusual”, and as an absence of photos with blue skies and people wearing sunglasses attests, we are braving some decidedly English weather at the moment. Luckily the forecast for Friday and Saturday looks much better.
At Mirabeau en Provence we were welcomed by Jeany Cronk, who with Stephen her husband, has created this amazing success story. She put us in the very capable and charming hands of Célia, who took us through the story, and introduced the range of wines.
I’ve already recounted the Mirabeau story in the April tour blog, but Célia was able to give us a fascinating French perspective. She is a native of Cotignac, with lots of experience in wine before she joined the Mirabeau team a few years ago (she and Jeany met at school pick up). We cheekily asked how the French had responded to the marketing orientation with social media, product placement and press coverage bringing the Mirabeau brand to world attention. Bemusement probably sums it up.
The approach to wine making is far more familiar to locals, with Stephen taking on a ‘négociant’ role, sourcing wine from local producers, and employing a talented winemaker to blend wines in order to achieve the house styles, that rosé lovers who shop at Waitrose will be familiar with.
In our tasting we started with Mirabeau Classic, the darkest in colour of the range, and Célia explained as we drank our way ‘up’ through Pure and Étoile that paler colour and increasingly elegant taste actually assists the wine to become more ‘gastronomic’, particularly suited to delicately flavoured dishes such as sushi.
She also explained the immense detail that goes into all aspects of the product – including the labels which are designed to retain their high quality imagery after submersion in an ice bucket.
La Folie fizz rounded off the rosés, and we enjoyed their Blanc, Rouge and finally La Falaise, named in homage to the cliff that towers above Cotignac, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo (we will return to this wine tomorrow).
We had a very pleasant lunch outdoors in Café du Cours, just up the street, protected from the downpour by awnings. Then back into the coach and an hour’s drive to Fréjus, and an altogether different scale of operation: Château d’Esclans.
We were impressed that Mirabeau has grown from nothing to selling 1.2 million bottles a year in less than ten years, but Chateau d’Esclans sells 7 million a year, from a zero base, in little over ten years. When I say zero base, that slightly undersells the advantages of knowledge and connections that come with being son of Alexis Lichine, the ‘pope of wine’, founder of Ch Prieurre Lichine in Margaux. However Sacha Lichine has used the proceeds of selling that fine château to establish one of the most exciting wine businesses in the world, and his achievements are immense.
Aided by Adina, we toured the winery and were frankly astounded at the scale at which d’Esclans operates. Again, I refer to last tour’s blog, but what particularly came over to me this time was that huge scale was not compromising care and attention and passionate winemaking.
We already had some Whispering Angel fans in our group, and I thought it was very interesting that the fan-dom did not increase as we drank our way ‘up’ their range, with the €99/bottle Garrus being quite challenging. In my opinion it became much more interesting as it warmed up, but oaked structured rosé at that price is definitely a luxury good whose league I am not in.
Our brilliant driver Sebastian got us safely home and I was very happy to hand the group over to Tim, who had had received an offer he couldn’t refuse for an event on Wednesday night, and will lead the tour from now on. Lucky him!