Wine Travels in France: 2012 Staff Trip (3: Provence – Burgundy)
Take a slice of hardened baguette, rub it with raw garlic, coat it with a deep yellow rouille (a saffron/egg yolk/cayenne/olive oil/garlic mixture, not unlike aioli) and place in an empty bowl; ladle in steaming fish broth (without tomatoes), and dress with a thin layer of grated local goat cheese… This was the construction of the bouillabaisse we enjoyed at our final wine appointment in Provence, at Clos Cibonne in Le Pradet, facing the sea, just east of Toulon – part of a lunch which included a caviar of lampfish eggs, very fresh brandade, grilled dorade, and a host of outstanding reds and rosés…
… with our terrific hosts, Claude and Brigitte Deforges, who made this a very memorable visit!
Within Provence, Clos Cibonne is unique for two reasons: the estate specializes in the Tibouren varietal, a rare red Mediterranean blending grape of Mesopotamian origin, now nearly extinct; and the veil of yeast, or flor – similar but not identical to those of Jerez and the Jura – underneath which their finest rosés are elaborated over the course of a year. While tasting the recent vintage wines (2010 and 2011), we recognized a very common theme for Provence, the difference between the wines made for the local French market and those made for export to the States. Nearly every estate (Cibonne included) has a line of wines, led by rosé, which are crisp, easy and very affordable, usually fermented in stainless steel with cultured yeast, and often from purchased grapes. These are meant to be enjoyed quickly, within a few months of release, and on their own, not necessarily at table (“a good accompaniment with the first rays of the sun”, to paraphrase a Cibonne brochure) – wines ‘for the French market’. The wines we see in the US (including at Telegraph, where we poured the Cibonne rosé last summer) undergo a longer maturation before release, show a deeper color, are aged in large neutral foudre barrels, and, in the case of Cibonne, aged under flor. These are wines made for ‘contemplation’, or at table, and represent a more traditional style.
This style of rosé also has great longevity in the mid-term; we tasted a very lively, very quaffable 1994 rosé, as well as a deeply colored 1978 rosé, which, while nearing the end of its life, still had surprising acidity and focus.
The ‘Tradition’ reds from this estate are fantastic as well… We tasted a Tibouren red from 2011 next to a 1979; while the ’79 lost a lot of the vibrant scarlet hue that the 2011 showed, it still had a bracing, delicate line of acidity and angular fruit that made me think of older Pinot Noir from northern Burgundy, or the Jura’s Trousseau.. A fitting association, with Burgundy and the Jura being our next two destinations.
After a Saturday night of cooking in with market meats and produce, for our hosts at the gite and local blogger Julie Maunter (marinated prawns, broiled dorade stuffed with thyme and wrapped in sorrel, farce-stuffed roasted quail, etc.), and a very wet Sunday in Les Baux, we headed north through the Rhône to meet the staff in Beaune for a two-week bicycle trip along the Côte d’Or, stopping at the Hermitage hill along the way.
From our home base near Meursault, the next days found us in Volnay (Voillot, Lafarge), Pommard (Violot-Guillemard), Nantoux (Montchovet), St.-Romain (Chassorney), and Meursault (Mikulski), among other villages….
to be continued -