Our road to the Luberon was forged through our relationships in Burgundy, of all places. Bastide du Claux was founded by Sylvain Morey, the son of Jean-Marc Morey, our long-adored vigneron in Chassagne-Montrachet. Thoughtful and strong-minded Sylvain left Burgundy determined to find his own way, settling down south in the historical but lesser-known region of the Luberon. We heard tales over the years of Sylvain’s “experiment” down south, but never found the time to take a closer look at his work. It was not until Sylvain returned to Burgundy, spurred by Jean-Marc’s retirement, to establish his own Domaine in Chassagne-Montrachet, that we were encouraged to make a visit to his small but interesting estate. To our delight, we were presented with a series of excellent wines which combine the elegance and purity of his experience in Burgundy with the unique cepages and terroirs of the Luberon.
Bastide du Claux was born in 2002 and is located in the gorgeous hills of western Provence, in the heart of the Luberon National Park. Sylvain works a diverse group of parcels totaling 17 ha, planted to 14 different varietals scattered throughout the region. The vineyards of the Luberon are relatively high, at 400-450m above sea level, and benefit from cooler temperatures compared with other parts of Provence and the Southern Rhone. This unique climate makes the Luberon an excellent location for producing racy and exciting white wines as well as reds that retain a freshness and bite. Sylvain claims that upon his arrival in the Luberon, there were few if any producers bottling their own wines, the vast majority of the production made by local cooperatives. Many of the growers valued quantity over quality and began to replant vineyards so that they could produce the maximum amount of grapes possible and save money with machine harvesting. These trends made it possible for Sylvain to affordably purchase interesting, low-yielding old-vine parcels that were no longer valued.
Sylvain’s Burgundian heritage really shows in his high standards of production. Harvests here can be quite late because of the cooler and relatively dry climate. All of the fruit for Sylvain’s wines is hand-harvested, with a rigorous selection made in the vineyards. Fermentations for white, red, and rosès are allowed to start on their own with indigenous yeasts. He attempts to do a gentle extraction for the reds with a minimal amount of remontage and no pigeage. Once fermentations are complete, the wines are aged in barrels of various sizes or concrete tanks before being bottled with only minimal filtration when needed.
|Barraban Luberon Blanc: This cuvee is primarily a blend of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, made from southwest-facing parcels on sandy soils. It contains seven different white varietals (also: Clairette, Ugni Blanc, Rousanne, Marsanne, and Viognier), undergoes a natural fermentation, and is then aged on the fine lees in mostly concrete. A small portion is aged in older oak barrels for 9 months before being bottled.|
|Malacare Luberon Rouge: Made from vines averaging about 50 years old, the Malacare is primarily Syrah (60%) and Grenache (25%) with a small amount of Carignan (10%), and comes from southwest-facing slopes of sandy soil. After a fairly long cuvaison of about 3 weeks, the wine is aged mostly in concrete for roughly a year, with the Syrah partly aged in large barrels before being bottled.|
|Côtes du Luberon Rosé: is a real standout, offering the ethereal pale salmon color and bright salty snap we’ve come to love about Provençal rosé, but without the confected, “commercial,” overly aromatically exuberant character that sometimes mars those wines. Sylvain picks all of the grapes at “rosé ripeness,” aiming for balancing acidity and brightness rather than sun-drenched ripeness. It’s composed of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 10% each Carignan and Syrah, from vines between 25 and 60 years of age. All of the grapes are pressed directly, and the majority undergo no maceration, with a portion of Grenache and Cinsault spending six or so hours on their skins after the pressing. Everything is done in cement, and the wine ferments naturally. This is a non-flashy rosé of great mineral character, showing its soil influence clearly, and offering subtle red fruits and vigorous acidity on the palate.|
The story throughout the south of France for the 2018 growing season was similar: an inordinate amount of rainfall from February through June engendered a rash of mildew that had growers scrambling, treating between five and ten times as much as usual in many instances. The weather pulled an immediate about-face in July, turning remarkably hot and remarkably dry—conditions which persisted until harvest. This whiplash effect stressed both vines and vignerons, to be sure, but happily the quality of the rosés from Provence is generally outstanding in 2018. The higher amount of rainfall led to rosés not burdened by unwelcome heaviness due to hyper-low yields, but the dryness of the latter part of the growing season prevented a sense of dilution in the final wines. In general, the 2018 rosés from the south of France display impeccable balance, superb drinkability, and a streak of classicism that sets them above the 2017s.
BOIS DE BOURSAN: 2018 was a difficult vintage for Versino; harvest began 12 Sept ended 28 Sept; due to extensive mildew throughout the season, he harvested 11.5 hectoliters per hectare; this on the heels of 2017 which yielded another small crop size of 22 hl/ha.
ON THE ROAD WITH JEREMY, NEIL AND CLARKE VISITING THE GROWERS AND REPORTING FROM THE FIELD PROVENCE AND THE LUBERON As was the case throughout the south of France, the defining characteristic of the 2017 growing season in Provence was the profound drought. Our growers in the Cotes de Provence, Bandol, Cassis, and the Cotes […]