Blend­ing cen­turies of tra­di­tion with mar­ket­ing

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME // INSIDE TODAY - With Travis Schultz Travis is a Sun­shine Coast busi­ness­man with a pas­sion for food and wine.

STEEPED in tra­di­tion and blessed with di­verse ter­roir, the French wine in­dus­try en­joys an en­vi­able po­si­tion atop the rank­ings of the world’s wine pro­duc­ing re­gions. As one of the top three pro­duc­ers of ta­ble wine by vol­ume (Italy and Spain pro­duce sim­i­lar vol­umes each year, depend­ing on vin­tage con­di­tions), France is also blessed with a unique wine tourism of­fer­ing thanks to its his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture, unique land­scapes and viti­cul­tural rep­u­ta­tion. And with such a sig­nif­i­cant strate­gic ad­van­tage, it’s per­haps a lit­tle sur­pris­ing that it has taken so long for com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of the in­dus­try to re­sult in a gen­uine fo­cus on the wine tourist, rather than the wine con­sumer; but I sense a whiff of change in the Mis­tral breezes.

In France, the well-es­tab­lished re­gions recog­nised by the Ap­pel­la­tion Con­trolee (such as Bordeaux, Bur­gundy, Cham­pagne, Al­sace) rely on the qual­ity of their brand and rep­u­ta­tions to at­tract vis­i­tors, while other rel­a­tively ‘new’ districts are cre­at­ing a mod­ern cel­lar door ex­pe­ri­ence and em­brac­ing digital mar­ket­ing in or­der to lure the mod­ern oeno­log­i­cal tourist.

Lo­cated within the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence des­ig­na­tion on the Puyri­card plateau Chateau Du Seuil is a vine­yard and win­ery that boasts cen­turies of his­tory, but is in­vest­ing in a 21st cen­tury built en­vi­ron­ment to com­ple­ment its Provençale an­tiq­uity. The orig­i­nal Chateau was largely con­structed in the 17th Cen­tury, when struc­tures built in the 13th and 16th cen­turies were com­bined and ex­panded, to cre­ate a summer res­i­dence for mem­bers of the lo­cal Aix Par­lia­ment. The tow­ers and cen­tral façade are as im­pres­sive as the 16th cen­tury gar­den (and its 200-year-old cedar trees) that the man­sion over­looks. The Du Seuil vine­yard it­self, sits at an al­ti­tude of be­tween 350 and 450 me­tres and hosts vines that pro­duce Gre­nache, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Syrah (Shi­raz), Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, Ugni Blanc (Treb­biano) and Rolle (Ver­mentino).

And as im­pres­sive as the old-world struc­tures may be, it was the sleek mod­ern cel­lar door where we spent most of our time on a re­cent visit. The design is overtly fo­cussed on meet­ing the needs of tourists, with a spa­cious cav­ern, lus­trous fit­tings, shelves filled with their red, white and pink wares, and bilin­gual staff trained in the tech­ni­cal de­tail of both the grow­ing and wine­mak­ing process. Our hosts, Mar­ion and Anna were gra­cious, and knowl­edge­able of the Chateau Du Seuil his­tory, though it took me a lit­tle by sur­prise to be told that we could only sam­ple two of their wines, even though all six ta­ble wines were avail­able to choose from. Can you imag­ine this hap­pen­ing at a Barossa Val­ley or Hunter Val­ley cel­lar door?

By French stan­dards, the Du Seuil wines were in­ex­pen­sive and the Chateau Grand Seuil Rose 2015 (at AUD $25) was one of the most mem­o­rable blush wines I im­bibed dur­ing my time in Europe. It’s a blend of 80 per cent Cin­sault, Gre­nache (15 per cent) and Syrah and is typ­i­cally flo­ral, del­i­cate and crisp, with a wa­ter­melon and honey-dew un­der­cur­rent.

The wine tourism in­dus­try in France may not yet have reached the ma­ture and lofty no­to­ri­ety of its noble Chateaus and grand cru wines, but the pre­co­cious new gen­er­a­tion of vi­gnerons, wine­mak­ers and vint­ners seem to be re­cal­i­brat­ing their per­cep­tion of the value of wine in­dus­try tourism. Could an­other French Re­nais­sance soon be un­der way?


The au­thor on the steps of Chateau Du Seuil in France.

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