August 19, 2011 Château Simone
Château Simone Blanc
clairette (80%), grenache blanc (10%), ugni blanc (6%), bourboulenc (2%), muscat blanc (2%)
The backdrop is not Château Simone itself, which is in Provence, but it is France — the marvellous kitchens of the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud in the Loire Valley. The bottle looks rather regal standing there, doesn’t it. Entirely at home. A distinctive wine in front of a distinctive piece of medieval architecture.
Château Simone, four kilometres outside Aix-en-Provence, was once home to Grands Carmes d’Aix monks, who dug out the original cellars in the 16th century. Winemaking here goes back even before that. Since 1830 the property has been owned by the Rougier family. Today René Rougier and son Jean-François are in charge, overseeing one of the most noteworthy wineries in all of France.
To begin, its vineyards, comprising just 15 hectares, make up almost the whole of the small Palette appellation. Much of the other land within the appellation is in fact pine forest, acting as protection from the wind, crossed by the river Arc which also contributes to a very favourable microclimate. The soil here is limestone scree. The vineyards are north-facing, with some vines dating back 110 years.
René Rougier has been known to say “I’ve never ripped up a vine in my life,’ which echoes even more strongly when you consider the broad range of varietals that make its way into Château Simone’s red, white, and rosé. The man has been at it since 1952, and has been doing enough right that the wine critic Andrew Jefford muses about his white, “Is this the world’s best Clairette?” And La Revue du Vin de France to label it “one of the greatest white wines of Southern France.”
Traditional, personal attention to vineyard details is a key ingredient to Château Simone’s success, and that includes entirely organic cultivation. Harvesting is by hand. Grapes are sorted twice manually before light crushing. Fermentation uses only natural yeasts. The white sees oak casks (sourced from prime Bordeaux wineries) for 18 months, then barrels for another year before bottling.
Its label is a standout, never to be mistaken for any other. As can be said of the wine.
Château Simone Blanc 2004
Light liquid gold in colour. From the first aromas, a concentrated, robust wine, daring in its complexity. If fruit, then rich dried apples and pears. If floral, then seeded dark blooms. In the mouth there is an aged, wood-enhanced, yet wonderful caramel/peaty quality. Near viscous, yet never dull, its lively acidity taking on a major role. A distinctive wine, in character and substance. $$