Okay, so you read the book A Year in Provence and are very excited to become a winemaker in the south of France. Yes, by all appearances it is a glamorous life. Gorgeous sunny weather, long leisurely lunches by the pool, sipping rose by the Mediterranean sea …
Wait! This is the fantasy. If you really want to make good wine, prepare for 20-hour days – even if you are the owner. Perhaps ‘especially if you are the owner’ is a better phrase since your reputation – and that of your wine - is all you really have.
Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to meet and spend some time with handsome, broad-shouldered Franck-Lin Dalle at his Chateau Du Campuget winery in the sun-kissed Costieres de Nimes area of southern France. I had first tasted Mr. Dalle’s wine this past spring in Manhattan, at a formal luncheon tasting with his distributor. Tasting notes reflect my favorable impressions of the rose and prestige Viognier, as well as the very elegant Syrah, both the slightly oaked Le Sommeliere and the top offering simply called “1753.”
So you can imagine my excitement when offered the opportunity to meet Mr. Dalle at his estate in Nimes and see how the vines are grown and the wine is produced. Geography is very important in this region which is largely referred to as the Languedoc-Roussillon as the terroir is extremely varied over this vast expanse of land extending from the Spanish border in the Southwest to nearly Marseilles. For those of us in the wine world, this region is viewed as an up and coming area where younger winemakers such as Mr. Dalle strive to make quality wine.
“Let us be clear on this one point,” says Mr. Dalle, when I ask if he considers his Chateau in the Languedoc Roussillon area. “We offer Rhone style wines. We have the same soil as the Rhone Valley, the same pebbles.” As an example, Mr. Dalle picks up one of the rock-sized ‘pebbles’ that are a signature of the world-famous vineyards in Chateauneuf du-Pape. By all accounts, this association with the Rhone Valley is correct, especially in terms of terroir. The Languedoc-Roussillion area is as large as many small countries put together, and driving two hours to visit an ancient ruin or have lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant is common practice. Furthermore, each AOC of the region has its own soil and thus its own characteristic style of wine.
Mr. Dalle’s mention of the Rhone soil and pebbles (washed into Nimes a million years ago during the ice age) is very important, since one of Chateau du Campuget’s most important wines is Syrah, a varietal that has its best expression in the Northern Rhone. The pebbles he mentions (galets roules) also have the added protective advantage of preventing the sub-soils from drying out in summer, and enabling vine-roots to plunge deep into the ground.