Chêne Bleu is a critically-acclaimed new winery in the Southern Rhône, located in the Dentelles de Montmirail, of Gigondas fame, in a protected mountain saddle in a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This family owned single estate make meticulously handcrafted wines in tiny quantities, no more than 600 cases of each wine. The terroir here is special: The 30 hectare vineyard is the highest in the region, and one of the highest in the South of France, at 550-630m. The resulting cool nights and late harvest bring a highly desirable ‘Northern-Rhône’ style freshness to the ‘Southern Rhône’ rich concentration of fruit and tannin. The estate was purchased by Xavier Rolet and his wife Nicole in 1994 and with it began the project of renovating this medieval estate vineyard to the highest international standards. The Rolets took the bold decision to take their wines out of the AOC system in order to have full artistic freedom to pursue the property’s utmost potential for quality. The wines thus carry the Vins de Pays de Vaucluse designation, as such they can be considered the first ever "Super Rhônes". Their pursuit of quality is obsessive: only hand picking, double sorting with individual grape selection, top quality new French oak cooperage, state-of-the-art gravity fed winery and parcel by parcel vinifications. In the vineyard everything is farmed according to biodynamic principles and ancient methods with emphasis on maintaining the ecosystem, planting bamboo forests to purify the water; propolis from their own beehives as an organic treatment for the vines. There are no shortcuts at this estate and the resulting wines are powerful, layered but with a sense of origin and also a fair degree of finesse, too.
Mount Ventoux, the mountain that looms over the Southern Rhone and Provence, lends its name to a quite particular district located in-between these two famous wine regions. For many years, producers in the Ventoux/Cotes de Ventoux AOC passed their time in relative obscurity, selling much of their produce to co-operatives, who would blend together local expressions of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre to rather uninspiring effect. Now however, it seems that their time has finally come. First listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1990, attentive producers began planting vines at higher and higher altitudes, flanking the base of the mountain. This had the dual effect of mitigating hot summer temperatures through cooler nights, with the concurrent realisation that global warming might not be altogether ideal for Southern France. The soils here are diverse, but a rich mineral content marks the best examples from the region. In fact, as wine lovers the world over move away from the alcoholic fruit blockbusters that dominated the 1990s and early 2000s, and turn towards naturally low yielding, ‘couture’ wines with brighter, aromatic profiles and stone, garrigue spice and mineral inflections, it looks like the Ventoux region really is ripe for picking. We are thrilled to represent Chene Bleu, arguably the leading ‘Super-Rhone’, who hail from a protected mountainside saddle above the village of Crestet, and Chateau Unang, who are based just outside the pretty village of Malemort du Comtat. Chateau Unang is the newest addition to our portfolio and we are very excited to be working with them.