Chêne Bleu, du Domaine La Verrière
AOC Ventoux & IGP Vaucluse
We are very pleased that this exciting new winery has asked Rive Gauche Wines to represent their outstanding range of wines, with exclusive distribution rights in a number of European markets
The wines of Chêne Bleu are the fruit of a unique estate in the Vaucluse department of southern France, hidden away at approximately 500m above sea level in the foothills of Mont Ventoux, to the east of Orange and the Rhône. Acquired in 1994 by Xavier Rolet and his wife Nicole Sierra-Rolet, this 500 year-old estate has been improved and modernised with unlimited attention to every detail. From 30ha of mature Grenache and old-vine Syrah vineyards, which they manage using organic and biodynamic practices, the team has now launched an outstanding range of “couture wines” of the utmost natural purity.
The domain occupies a unique site: it sits on complex clay and limestone soils with a high basalt content; the altitude allows fruit to ripen slowly for optimum aromas and flavour development; the valley’s microclimate benefits from the cooling influence of the Mistral but is protected from the full force of the wind; and the varied exposure of the many parcels compose a palette of delicate nuances from which the resulting wines offer the freshness and complexity of the northern Rhône, along with the body of the southern Rhône. Isolation enables effective biodynamic management of the vineyard, which is predominantly planted to mature Grenache and old-vine Syrah, with carefully-sited new plantings of Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and even a tiny parcel of Clairette. The gravity-fed winery (which extends over four floors, and 12m into solid rock) is equipped with a range of oak, steel and concrete tanks and the wines are aged in French oak of varying volumes to complement the parcels, from Burgundian (228l) to muid‘oc (320l). According to biodynamic principles, bottling takes place on ‘fruit’ or ‘flower’ days.
The true story of the love of Abélard and Héloïse, leading theologians and philosophers of 12th century Paris, and of their tragic separation, is one of the most profound and enduring of the Middle Ages. It has inspired some of the world’s finest literature, including the medieval Roman de la Rose, and works by Lamartine, Pope, William Shakespeare and even Mark Twain. The owners of Chêne Bleu felt inspired to name their two flagship red wines after these characters because of their extraordinary relationship and their uncommon destiny, and then their later creation after the lovers’ son Astralabe, in recognition of the wine’s impeccable breeding.
The estate’s flagship wines are its two top reds, Abélard and Héloïse, equal in quality but very different in character, as befits their namesakes, the fated medieval lovers. They are both made in tiny quantities, and are released for sale only when Chêne Bleu’s owners deem them ready. Abélard (90% Grenache, 10% Syrah with 11 months in oak) is well-bred but packs a full-bodied punch. Héloïse (60% Syrah, 37% Grenache, 3% Viognier, with 11 months in oak) shows balance and elegance through restraint.
Astralabe is the lovers’ offspring, a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah with 7-8 months in oak, which offers the true expression of Chêne Bleu’s pure and elegant old-vine fruit, and benefits from every attention to detail from the winemaking team, yet at a more customer-friendly price level. While not produced in industrial volumes, availability is considerably less restricted than for the flagship wines.
Two white wines are produced, the first being Aliot (65% Roussanne, 30% white Grenache, 5% Marsanne with a touch of Viognier). This is a rich, oak-aged white named after Aliot de Montvin, the 15th century glassblower who gave the estate its name of La Verrière. This Burgundian-style white is concetrated yet fresh, and will benefit from 5-6 years’ ageing. After that, the varietal Viognier is the fruit of one young, north-facing parcel. Barrel-fermented, its supreme elegance is testament to the fresh nights at La Verrière. It bears the hallmark apricot and lychee flavours, without any of the ‘exuberance’ of other examples of this variety grown in warmer locations.
The estate has built much of its reputation on its sensational rosé, a finely-textured, complex blend of Grenache and Syrah, made as the boutique response to the popular and more widely-known rosé de Provence. The wine is produced using cold maceration and direct press technique, with part of the must spending a brief time in oak. It is a perfect accompaniment to grilled seafood and even Asian cuisine, with it’s fine structure and rose-petal aromas.
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Quantities of these wines are very limited. Working in partnership with the estate, it is our aim to appoint importers/distributors in selected country markets and to establish the name of Chêne Bleu over the coming years to a level of recognition that matches the wines’ quality.