It’s one of the most beautiful yet understated coastlines in the world. The beach sands that span just a few kilometres between Ramatuelle (St Tropez) and Le Lavandou are attached to vineyards that make the best rosé wines in Provence today.
Chateau Léoube’s estate covers 560 hectares (1380 acres) on the Mediterranean coast on the Bénat peninsula. The chateau was built back in the 14th century and the vineyards became commercial in the late 19th century at which time it became evident that the soil quality (dating back to the Proterozoic era 600 million years ago) was ideal for wine growing. In 1997 the estate was purchased by a British family who committed themselves to realising the highest quality wines and olive oils in collaboration with their environmentally friendly approach (already in the making with Daylesford Organic).
There are apparently three ways to make rosé. The first is to mix red and white wine. This is illegal in France (one cannot call it rosé just because the wine is pink in colour). The second way is to take red grapes (the skins are red but the inside is white) and macerate them, keeping their skins on. The third, and Chateau Léoube’s preferred way of making rosé, is by harvesting both red and white grapes by hand, picking only the best while removing all leaves and any rotten fruit. All grapes that end up in the bucket should be edible. While keeping the stock mixed, the grapes are then gently pressed while a few stalks remain purposely mixed in, to prevent over pressing. This takes two and a half to three hours. The slow and delicate process extracts just the right colour and what results is a simply tinted juice and nothing else (like leaf extract that can spoil the taste). This also prevents too many tanins from the skins entering the juice while maceration is kept at a minimum. The juice is then fed into a second tank where it experiences its first decanting process overnight (the temperature is tightly controlled here) and then transferred into a third tank for its fermentation process. Chateau Léoube prides itself in using no additives or enzymes to this process and allows the wine to ferment naturally for about three to five weeks. Sulfites are added here purely as a preservative and not as a taste enhancer. A second fermentation adds a “creamy” quality to the wine while giving it a “rounded” finish and this, according to the manager of the Chateau, Mr Jérôme Pernot, is what makes rosé a better match with a large variety of cuisines. A final blending is the key to consistant quality control.
Chateau Léoube’s core product is the bottle simply called Rosé de Léoube (80 per cent of their production) made from 40 per cent Grenache, 40 per cent Cinsault, 10 per cent Syrah and 10 per cent Mourvèdre grapes on 22 – 25 year old vines. The wine offers a very pleasant finish of pineapple, peaches, and white chocolate fragrances and sells for 14 euros per bottle. The more prestigious bottle is called Secret de Léoube and is made from 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes instead of the Cinsault and Syrah in the former, giving it a super-clean finish that is elegant and harmonious, matching particularly well with spicy and Asian fusion cuisines. Secret de Léoube wine is made from 35 year-old vines and production is limited to 27,000 bottles a year. The cost for this bottle is 19 euros.
The estate also makes a sparkling rosé, two types of red, a white, alongside virgin olive oil and honey, all meeting the strict requirements of “Agriculture Biologique,” the French standards for organic production as well as with the certification of ECOCERT.
The area and its beaches is one of the best kept secrets in this part of France. They are slightly more difficult to get to with few sign posts and narrow, winding roads (many look like private driveways) unlike the more frequented beaches of the Cote d’Azur and Pamplonne. Chateau Léoube enjoys its pardisical setting, with exactly the right climate and earth quality to make outstanding wine.
I would like to thank Mr Jérôme Pernot for being the charming host du jour on a beautiful sunny day at Chateau Léoube in March.
Unfortunately I was not able to see the castle itself (a private residence) but the wine shop and caves were impressive enough, having been carved out of a hill and recently built to high standard.
For more information, see their website: chateauleoube.com
Chateau Léoube: 2387, route de Léoube, 83230 Bormes-Les-Mimosas, France
Tel : +33 0494 64 80 03
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org