Mark’s Cellar Chat | April 2021
In April 1995 our valley had a visit from a group of winemakers from the southern Rhone valley, specifically, the Cotè du Luberon bordering Provence in France.
Being mindful that their forefathers had contributed to the settlement of Huguenots here in 1688, they wanted to have a look at the progress of viticulture in the interim. The group was led by their own guide/translater, Marie – Odile Patin. She was perfect for the job as she not only owned a vineyard in the Luberon, she was also involved in the communities’ public relations and marketing. During some four or five days the group visited various properties to bond with their heritage. There was a farewell lunch at Polfeintjies restaurant (now Entrée). Kind words were said, good wines consumed and Marie – Odile promised to keep in touch.
The following year I planned to go to Vinexpo in Bordeaux and contacted Marie – Odile with a view to spending a little time in her terroir. In due course I found myself staying at a charming pension in the historic town of Lourmarins. There followed a number of trips to renew acquaintances, and what an experience it was with Marie – Odile now being the guide. The weather was perfect and the truffle omelettes sublime. After calling at La Motte D’Aigues we went to Cabrierès (Domain des Vaudois) among others. By now there was a distinct feeling that I had found the source of a few of our own vineyards. A source that is conveniently saved from the tourist hordes. Small villages with vineyards providing the ‘country wines’ that I admire so much. Also the fun of finding a few eccentricities such as Conrad Pinatel of Chateau De mille who manages his property from horseback, and the vigneron, whose name I forget, who manages his vines wearing a three-piece suit with a Gauloise hanging from the lower lip. Provence definitely gets more attention than the Cotè du Luberon.
Tucked away from major roads this sleepy valley produces lots of ‘little’ wines that, like the horsepower of your Rolls Royce, may be described as ‘adequate’. Oddly, apart from appearing on wine maps of southern Rhone valley, I could find no reference to any wine from the Coté du Luberon. Not even in the prestigious Alex Lichines’ ‘Guide to the Vines and Vineyards of France’ in his chapter on ‘The Lesser wines of France’. This notwithstanding I enjoyed my introduction to new varietals like Carignan, Grenache and Bournoulenc. We tend to relate our reds to berry flavours, they to tobacco, burned sugar and chocolate (mocha), and so they should, new taste sensations are an education. Old connections with the past are as well.
A votre santè.