Victor Smart tastes through the new whites, rosés and reds of Provence estate Château Sainte Roseline with owner Aurélie Bertin at Petersham Nurseries’ La Goccia restaurant in London. The challenge, Smart argues, is for this producer (who also owns and manages Château des Demoiselles) to keep moving with the times as well as keep one foot in its traditional past through which it has accomplished so much… especially with the pressures of drought, climate change and bureaucracy.
“We want to be pale, but not white”, explains Chateau Sainte Roseline owner Aurélie Bertin.
To most Brits, wine from Provence evokes sunshine and pleasure. It’s about the heat, the stir, and the sublime vacancy of high summer, as someone once put it.
But wine folk toiling in the vineyards of the Côtes de Provence appellation face rather more mundane challenges. Take Aurélie Bertin, who owns and manages both the Château Sainte Roseline and Château Des Demoiselles, not so far from St Tropez. We meet her for a masterclass to launch her 2022 vintage whites and rosés over lunch at La Goccia, in London’s Covent Garden.
Château Sainte Roseline, sited in Les Arcs, is one of the 18 Cru Classé estates in Provence It produces red, white and rosé from 110 hectares of vineyards on clay limestone soils quite close to the Mediterranean. The sister estate, Château des Demoiselles, with 72 hectares of vineyards, meanwhile, sits within the Esclans Valley.
As head of one of the region’s largest family wine producers, the quietly spoken Bertin represents tradition. But nothing in wine-making is static. First, the intense Provençal heat, worsened by global warming, is at best a mixed blessing. There is water scarcity to contend with too – though a spring rises conveniently under one of the estates. And there is the seismic shifts in consumer tastes – virtually the first thing Bertin tells us is that one of every three bottles of wine sold in France is now a rosé.
We start off tasting a white, the Blanc 2022 Château des Demoiselles (ABV 13%, RRP £24). This is a Vermentino but an arcane bureaucratic stipulation insists this must be called by the French name Rolle. This is very young, with some white fruits on the palate and lemon on the nose. Second up is the Lampe de Meduse Blanc 2022 Château de Roseline (RSP £25). The flagship cuvée, this is 85% Rolle and 15% Semillon. Harvested at night, the ABV is 13% but it’s a struggle to keep the alcohol level at that level because of the heat. And the winery is adamant that an ABV of 14% would be too high for a white or rosé. The winery is looking to Spain and even Greece for new grape varieties which are more resilient in the heat.
The bottle deserves a mention too. With a bulbous base reminiscent of an art deco perfume bottle, it’s iconic and copyrighted. Then on to Cuvée de la Chapelle Blanc Château Cru Classé (ABV 13%, RRP £45). This is a big step up; you can feel the wood with this and there’s more complexity– it’s right to class it as “gastronomic”.
And so to the rosés, first the Rosé 2022 Château des Demoiselles, a six-grape blend including Grenache and Syrah (ABV 13%, RRP £23.50) and then the Lampe de Meduse Rosé 2022 (ABV 13%, RRP £24.50), also a six-grape blend. Last of the pink wines is the Cuvée de La Chapelle Rosé (ABV 13%, RRP £43.00) made from Mourvèdre and Grenache. Marcus Wareing‘s eateries are featuring this in a magnum format. These rosés immediately transport you in time and place to summer in Provence! The winemaker has been busy with “colour management” – the wine has the irresistible pink hue that beckons the drinker to the South of France. “We want to be pale, but not white,” explains Bertin.
As something to benchmark the 2022 vintages by, we are invited to taste some older reds such as the Château Sainte Roseline Cuvée de la Chapelle 2014, a powerful, full-on Cabernet Sauvignon with an ABV of 15% retailing for around £60 a bottle which has wonderful notes of red fruits, blackcurrant and bramble, and good tannins. These seriously concentrated older wines are simply sumptuous and reveal what Bertin and her team of 60 can accomplish. The challenge for the wine producer is to move with the times but also hold fast to what’s already achieved.
The wines of Château Sainte Roseline and Château des Demoiselles are distributed in the UK by Louis Latour Agencies, which is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To learn more about them click here.