Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The heartland of Provence

Range of Château Berne wines
Top : rosé, white, red cuvées spéciales
Front: ‘la Viognier’, ‘Impatience’ rosé

The Château de Berne at Lorgues is a vast estate of 500 hectares, with 80 hectares of vines, olive groves, a hotel, restaurant, conference and event centre and even a wine school. It has been British-owned for the past 25 years and in July last year was bought by millionaire Mark Dixon, when incumbent Bill Muddyman decided to retire.
Dixon, a true oenophile, said he was delighted to have acquired this exceptional property in a very special part of France. His first aim was to continue to upgrade the quality of the wines, the vineyards and the exterior of the estate.

Daniel Guerin (49), viti-vini BTS graduate (Beaune), was appointed the technical director of this daunting task. His first job, before any exterior improvements, was the 2007 harvest and wine making. Innovative wine making has always been Daniel’s strength and with his first vintage at the estate, he introduced changes in blends, styles and even packaging.

Showing me around the winery and vineyards, he outlined his first major changes – in the rosé wines: “Our top-ofthe- range Cuvée Spéciale needed more fruit and balance, and I also wanted to introduce a mid-priced rosé to the list. The name chosen for this new range was ‘Impatience’. The CEO Didier Fritz said it was named after me, because of my insistence.” He then moved on to the viognier produced from the Wine School’s parcel of the vine. Both the style of wine and packaging needed change: “It is now in specially-designed 50cl bottles with a glass stopper. Viognier is very much of a cult wine at present and we have only enough to make around 4,000 bottles annually. Luckily for me, Mr Dixon has already made improvements in the winery equipment, and there is more on schedule.” The three ranges of wines, with the exception of the viognier, take the AC of Côtes de Provence. Viognier, with no recognition in the governmental AC, is a Vin de Pays du Var.
Cuvée Spéciale Rosé 2007
This rosé took a Gold Medal at the Concours Général and Silver at the International Vinalies in Paris. Made from 80% grenache and 20% cinsault, it is vinified using the cold fermentation technique. Pale rose-pink, with a stone fruit bouquet; dry, clean, fresh, with well-balanced acidity and fruit (peach, soft berries) on the palate, and a long lingering aftertaste, it is the perfect example of a modern quality rosé wine. Ideally it should be served at around 8°C as an apéritif, with a Provençal salad, or lightly grilled snapper fish.

Viognier 2007 – Vin de Pays du Var
The viognier is a shy-bearing vine yielding only 20 to 25 hectolitres per hectare. The grape itself is not the easiest to make into a quality wine. This 2007 viognier is straw-coloured, aromatic (dried apricot, peach and blossom), with the apricot and peach following through strongly on the palate and in the aftertaste. It can be drunk as dessert wine or as an apéritif. Viognier is best consumed within two years.

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