The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is famed for many things including the agricultural products such as the Lavender fields of the Valensole Plateau and the black truffle markets that take place each year in the town of Riez from November to March not to mention almonds and of course vineyards. In the heart of the Provence region close to the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon in the village of Villecroze sits a very special vineyard, Chateau Thuerry.
The site covers over 300 hectares with 40 hectares under vine and has achieved organic certification but Chateau Thuerry literally has hidden depths. Dating from the time of the Knights Templar the original Chateau building greets visitors as they arrive. The vineyard has revealed many ancient artefacts since it was first planted in 1927 and these are housed in a case in the main tasting room. Visitors then leave this history behind and are invited to tour the winery which was built in 2000. The entrance to the winery feels like a secret bunker and the concrete steps lead three metres underground to the tank room. The tanks and barriques are arranged in a circle around a central hole in the roof. On the surface there is a large concrete area with a small hatch in the middle. Sorting tables are laid ready at harvest and the selected fruit is then delivered to the hatch and travels down a funnel directly into the selected vessel. To switch receptacle the funnel is simply moved to the next tank and so on through harvest.
The Gorges of Verdon carved by the Verdon river offer sanctuary to many birds of prey including Griffon vultures and black vultures that were reintroduced to the area in 1999. These massive birds are often seen soaring above the towns and villages near to the deepest canyon in France and it is perhaps no surprise that when I ask about the predators in the vineyard that our guide informs us that unlike many of the English and Welsh Vineyards we visit, there are not really any losses to birds! However, one predator that is highly problematic for the vineyard is the wild boar. Although ‘sanglier’ is found in every charcuterie and on many menus across the region the vineyard still has to accept a significant amount of loss to these large creatures that really enjoy feasting on the grapes (males are estimated to weigh in around 100kg or more if particularly well fed).
In the maritime climate harvest is undertaken at 3am for optimum fruit quality and flavour. Some of this harvesting is done by machine but certain varieties are picked by hand. Supplying wines to award winning multi-Michelin starred restaurants the wines exquisitely represent the different aspects of the region marrying the old and the new perfectly and offering something for every palate.
There are three appellations at Chateau Thuerry: AOC Côteaux Varois en Provence, AOC Côtes de Provence, IGP Var Côteaux du Verdon.
The wines produced at Chateau Thuerry are split between 45% red, 45% rose and 10% white. There are many styles of wine made here including a syrah/grenache blend made by utilising indigenous yeast and a rosé blend of 20% Merlot and 80% Caladoc that is both vinified and aged in oak – this wine is certainly a rosé to be taken seriously and would be able to travel the length of a meal without fatigue. Their premium wine L’Exception2, offered at 95 euros, is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon described as “an intense wine that will captivate you with its personality and power.” This description is a great summation for the whole winery experience and visitors to the region are welcome to visit the winery and enjoy this unique experience themselves.