Chene Bleu, wines from Vaucluse
The old saw goes, “How do you make a small fortune? Start with a big one and buy a vineyard.” Which is basically what Nicole Rolet and her husband, Xavier did in the late 90’s when they bought a derelict vineyard along the southern border of Gigondas in the region of Vaucluse in Provence. After having the land assessed by soil experts Claude and Lydia Bourguignon and being told they had soil with incredible potential to grow excellent vines, Xavier went back to work in the City and Nicole set to studying wine.
Nicole and Xavier settled on the name Chene Bleu because of an ancient “blue” oak tree that dominates the vineyard and symbolizes to them, the “…beauty and uniqueness of the vineyard.” Joined by Xavier’s sister Benedicte Galluci, a viticulturist and her husband, Jean-Louis, winemaker, they are now producing small quantities of biodynamic, hand picked, hand made wine. No expense is spared in the production of the wine and they follow biodynamic principles down to bottling on “flower days” or “fruit days” to ensure the wine shows at it’s best.
The soil that was so praised by the experts is indeed excellent for producing wines with a streak of minerality, the schist and clay soils showing off in the wines. They grow syrah, grenache, viognier, roussane and marsanne and use bespoke wine making techniques which are adapted to each particular parcel of their vines.Using those bespoke techniques gives them the opportunity to produce their wines to their exact specifications but it also leaves them producing only Vin de Pays wine instead of AOC wines as they often go out of the AOC guidelines in order to produce the wines to their exact specifications.
I, for one, am not that bothered if a wine is a VdP or AOC as long as it’s well made and I enjoy drinking it. Nicole brought the entire range to The Boundary Restaurant in Shoreditch to taste and here are my brief notes on each:
2009 Rose – a grenache/syrah blend, pale pink in colour with a quiet nose of strawberries and citrus, on the palate, weighty for a rose, strawberry and red summer fruits dominating, very refreshing, crisp and long lasting. We had this with various canapes and cheese sticks which only made it that much more enjoyable.
2007 Viognier – love French viognier the most, full and usually very generous in the mouth, this one did not disappoint, full of peaches and apricots with a nice zing to it while still retaining a lovely elegant note and toasted almonds on the finish.
Aliot 2008– roussane, white grenache and marsanne – a very aromatic wine, loads of peaches on the nose, quite round on the palate with plenty of peachy apricot flavours and a hint of pineapple along with a mineral finish to it.
The reds were deep, broody and rich wines. The Heloise 2006, a blend of syrah, grenache and a touch of viognier to lighten it up. Powerful and well structured, velvety tannins and plenty of black fruits with cedar and spicy notes on the finish.
The Abelard 2006 was a bit more structured and masculine in profile. Intense, concentrated black cherry and black fruits with a spicy finish. This wine was slightly warmer then the Heloise with fine grained tannins.