Chateau Pradeaux

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There is the appellation of Bandol with its plethora of producers, some good, some mediocre; and then there is Château Pradeaux, the unique, inimitable, standard-bearer for this ancient wine-growing district. The Château Pradeaux is situated on the outskirts of the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer that lies directly on the Mediterranean Ocean between Toulon and Marseilles. The estate has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution. In fact, Jean-Marie-Etienne Portalis, who inherited the estate in 1752, helped draft the Napoleonic Code and assisted at the negotiation of the Concordat under Napoleon the First. The estate was devastated during the French Revolution and suffered the effects of the phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century. Suzanne Portalis and her daughter, Arlette, retreated to the domaine during World War II and undertook to revive the domaine. The domaine is currently under the direction of Cyrille Portalis, the sole direct descendant of Suzanne and Arlette. He continues to maintain the great traditions of this estate and is assisted by his wife, Magali, and now his two sons, Etienne and Edouard.

The vineyards are cultivated in as natural a manner as possible with reliance on organic methods. In fact, for many years during the spring months sheep grazed in the vineyards thereby eliminating any need to use herbicides and at the same time providing a natural compost. The wines of Pradeaux are brooding and difficult. Produced on the back of the noble Mourvèdre, Pradeaux in its youthful stages is tannic, backward and sometimes ornery. The wines are not destemmed; élevage in large oak foudres can last as long as four years; vines of less than 25 years of age are not used for the reds.

Château Pradeaux Bandol is composed of no less than 95% Mourvèdre (old vines). The nose is a mix of honey and white flowers with a hint of animal fur; the color is ruby red; the fruit stains the palate and is lengthened by a near-perfect sense of roundness; the final attack is of ripe tannins that are dusty and sweet. Château Pradeaux “Cuvée Longue Garde” is born exclusively of the oldest Mourvèdre vines on the estate (average age 45 years). Extraordinarily dense, with black notes to the color, the “Longue Garde” is marked by a strong scent of Provençal herbs combined with smoked red meat. This is a complete wine with incredible length; the flavors remind one of macerated plums and black currants. The super-ripe tannins are powerful and in perfect balance with the high fruit extract. This is the wine for the ages.

Although the major part of the vineyards is planted to Mourvèdre, the Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is composed of Cinsault as well as Mourvèdre. After a short maceration on the skins, in order to extract a light color, the juice is fermented at low temperatures to retain freshness, fruit and bouquet. After being aged in cement cuves, the wine is normally bottled in late spring of the year following the harvest. It is one of the richest of the rosés of France, dry but full-bodied with a floral bouquet.

Pradeaux-Bandol-Rose Chateaux Pradeaux Bandol Rosé: The Bandol Rosé from Pradeaux is perhaps the most serious wine in this category. Robust, rich, and complex with an ability to age gracefully, this wine is based on Cinsault (50%) and Mourvèdre (50%), taking its slight orange tint from the latter cépage. The younger vines of the domaine (average age: 25 years) are utilized to produce a rare rosé with staying power and exceptional complexity. The Rosé is vinified by a direct pressing for 24 hours followed by fermentation in cement tanks at a controlled temperature of 18 degrees Celsius for about 15 days; the malo-lactic fermentation is blocked and the wine is usually bottled in mid-April of the following year. We import approximately 600 cases (7200 bottles) annually of this exceptional wine.
Côtes de Provence: Made from 45% Cinsault and 40% Mourvedre, with the balance split among Grenache and Carignan, a core of sappy, glycerol red-cherry fruit anchors a firm, punchy minerality, and the finish is remarkably persistent. The vineyards that comprise this wine were, in fact, classified as Bandol AOC as recently as 2012, and this 2017 clearly distinguishes itself from among the vast ocean of Côtes de Provence rose by virtue of its terroir’s unique pedigree
Vesprée: “Vespree,” meaning evening in Provençal and Occitan, presents a full, swaggering nose of quince paste, white pepper, and coarse-ground Indian spices, and the big, richly textured palate possesses a structural tension that heavily underlines its potential for aging—though it is fresh, tense, and very delicious right in its youth. It is exceedingly difficult to find rosé of this caliber and character, even from Bandol—and, in a twist of irony, this wine which is so purely and deeply Bandol to its very core was denied appellation status on three separate occasions, and is thus labeled a “Vin de France.” But, in an appellation that has seen production shift from 70% red wine to 85% rosé over the years in response to market trends, this is perhaps more depressing than surprising. In any event, we are proud of the wine, and proud to work with such a courageous and iconoclastic family—and we know “Vespree” will delight those who appreciate Pradeaux’s ruggedly uncompromising sensibility.
Pradeaux-Bandol Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rouge: The Bandol from Pradeaux is a creature whose soul emerges from Mourvèdre. The classic cuvée is 95% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache, with the Grenache adding spice to the bouquet and leavening some of the drama provided by the intimidating structure of the Mourvèdre. One of the hallmarks of Pradeaux is that the grapes are never destemmed. The result is a wine of ferocious tannin in its youth, another reason for the prolonged aging in these large wooden barrels, a time for the wine to repose and find its identity as it emerges from the cocoon of tannins to reveal an exceptionally complex crowd of aromas and flavors. Although situated mere steps from the Mediterranean, harvest at Pradeaux (always manual) frequently starts in earnest for the Mourvedre during the first weeks of October. The average age of the vines is approximately 35 years and harvest levels are quite low, often in the range of 25 hectoliters per hectare. Fermentation occurs at temperatures between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius and the wines are racked into large oak ovals and foudres where they rest with occasional rackings for four years before being bottled. Neither new oak nor small barrels are ever used at Pradeaux and the red wines are never fined nor filtered. Depending on the vintage, we import between 300 and 500 cases per annum for the US market.
Pradeaux-Longue-Garde-2004 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rouge Cuvee Longue Garde: In particularly exceptional vintages, Cyrille Portalis permits us to draw off a small portion of the juice from the oldest Mourvèdre vines to create the “Cuvée Longue Garde”, exclusively Mourvèdre from vines in excess of 45 years of age. Both cuvées are aged at least 4 years in large, old oak ovals and older foudres before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Suffice to say, this is one of our favorite wines, a special creation, inimitable in all ways and worthy of the attentions of anyone serious about wine. This cuvée is made exclusively for our use and, when produced, is limited to approximately 600 bottles.
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2018 Rosé Field Report

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.

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Summary of Grower Visits – Part VII

Chateau Simone:
I spent a delightful morning with Florence and Jean-Francois (known as “Jeff” to Florence!) Rougier after departing from the early morning visit with Sylvain MOREY. The deep dive into Simone started with a trio of vintages of Grands Carmes Blanc.

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Summary of Grower Visits – Part VI

Provence – A day for 3 Chateaux ….

CHATEAU SIMONE: what a lovely estate! Each time I visit (and, remember my first visit with the Rougier family was in 1981) I remain impressed by the impeccable grounds, the perfectly maintained cellar and ultimately the consistently excellent and idiosyncratic wines.

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