Earlier this year, the Sales & Marketing Teams plus the Management Team gathered at Heathrow airport for their early evening flight to Marseille for their annual Sales & Marketing conference at Chateau des Ferrages, newly acquired by M Chapoutier in January 2016.
After normal BA efficiency we were soon on our Coach heading inland to the wonderful Hotel Le Coubert Royal in Saint Maximin for a late supper. With a big day ahead, the team retired to their rooms for some much needed rest.
Thursday 30th was an early start with a few of the team taking the opportunity for a bit of pre breakfast exploring by way of a quick run, jog, or walk through and around the town. The sun was shining but the morning was still cool, a fact made clear to us by some of the other hotel guests during breakfast when we were guilty of not shutting the restaurant door thus exposing the other diners to the cool morning air.
The “business end” of the trip took place in the hotel shortly after breakfast, with normal agenda items covering the current year sales and developments in the market. However, we were gathered in Provence to better understand the region and especially the wines with a focus on Provence Rose which is a category that has gained in popularity across most major markets due to the clean, fresh, crisp, light wines that the region produces.
Justin Liddle, Director of European Wines, gave the Team an excellent summary of the area, the wine growing regions, terroirs, production volumes and markets. I think some of the statistics around production and exports were a surprise to even the most experienced of the team. A tasting of some of the better known Provence wines was held as a reference point for what was to come later in the day.
Of course, we were in Provence to learn more specifically about Chateau des Ferrages, a 27 hectare estate purchased by M Chapoutier (represented in the UK by Mentzendorff) in 2016 situated between Mont Sainte Victoire and Mont Aurelien.
The meeting ended and we boarded our coach for the start of our visit proper. No vineyards should be explored without first a decent lunch and so we were lucky enough to start our education of the region at Auberge de Bannette where we were joined by Nelly France, Commercial Director, Cyrille Harmel, Export Director and Mathilde Chapoutier, daughter of Michel Chapoutier who is in charge of Chateau des Ferrages. Lunch was washed down with, for many of us, the first taste of the Chateau des Farrages wines, all with the wonderful mountains in the background.
Time to see some vineyards, so back on the coach, and taking a route probably not designed for a 45 seat coach, we found ourselves out in amongst the vines (just coming into bud) in an area where most of the grapes that form the Roumery range are grown and sourced. We were delighted to be joined there by the wine maker, Gillaume Vidal, who explained the terroir of the area to us. The varietals are mainly Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Rolle (Vermentino) and Clairette, which go to make the classic Provence blend. We then drove back towards the foot of the two Mountains and strolled up into the vineyards for about 20 minutes to see the higher altitude prime locations where the terroir is mostly Clay, and well-draining limestone. It is here that the grapes are grown for the Mon Plaisir range and the top wine, the Collection Rouge.
Having gained a familiarity of the area and its terroir, the team headed back to the coach for the short drive to the Chateau des Ferrages cellars for a full range tasting conducted enthusiastically by Cyrille Harmel and Gillaume Vidal. The simple range and distinction between the Roumery and more premium Mon Plaisir wines was clear to see, and all agreed that there is nothing quite so appealing as a Magnum or Jeroboam of Provence Rose!
As if our thirst for the area hadn’t been quenched enough, we then boarded the coach and through some spectacular scenery found ourselves near the top of the Sainte Victoire Mountain for an aperitif where we could really soak in the scenery. Back on the coach, and time getting on, we drove back through the dark for a late supper and then back to the hotel. With spirits high after a fascinating but tiring day, some of the team felt the need to stay up into the small hours to further their education of the wine of the area, in the magnificent surroundings of the hotel courtyard (yet again endearing ourselves to the remaining hotel guests)
On Friday 31st, a real treat and a drive down through the hills to Cassis where we were lucky enough to enjoy a short boat trip around some of the bays and the harbour of Cassis, followed by another splendid lunch at Grand Large overlooking the beach – a real treat !
Back to the airport and a short flight back to Heathrow. The Team full of knowledge, and inspired by what they had seen and tasted, chomping at the bit to go to talk to their customers about Chateau des Ferrages.