VINE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

Chris­tian and Ma­rina Garin didn’t just take over the Com­man­derie de la Barge­mone, they turned it into a bench­mark for Rosé in the Coteaux d'aix-en-provence re­gion. By June Lee

Epicure (Indonesia) - - CONTENTS -

Chris­tian and Ma­rina Garin from Com­man­derie de la Barge­mone

While hav­ing rooftop sun­set drinks in the Ma­rina Bay area, I find out that Chris­tian and Ma­rina Garin could – po­ten­tially! – have been neigh­bours with Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie. The for­mer celebrity cou­ple was shop­ping around for a wine es­tate in Provence in the late 2000s, and had al­legedly been in­ter­ested in the prop­erty next door to the Com­man­derie de la Barge­mone. Their fi­nal pur­chase, how­ever, turned out to be Chateau Mi­raval, a one-hour drive away in Cor­rens-var. It’s a fun bit of gos­sip in any case, and Rosé tends to put one in a care­free mood with her friendly chat­ter.

The rise of Rosé

Ma­rina Ca­hen is from Lyon, while Chris­tian is from Mar­seilles. They mar­ried in 1985, and af­ter a care­free “DINK lifestyle in Paris,” Chris­tian dead­pans, they had four chil­dren and moved to Aix where Chris­tian’s fam­ily had al­ways had a home. In 2006, just when they were con­sid­er­ing get­ting in­volved in the win­ery busi­ness, they were of­fered the his­toric Com­man­derie de la Barge­mone es­tate. The pre­vi­ous pro­pri­etors were in­dus­tri­al­ist Jean-pierre Rozan, a fam­ily friend. The lat­ter had passed away at age 85, leav­ing the es­tate to his sons who were not able then to take on the chal­lenge of an age­ing vine­yard and win­ery fa­cil­i­ties.

By 2007 Ma­rina was firmly and solely in charge as wine­maker and es­tate man­ager. The es­tate was planted for vol­ume, not quan­tity, and juice was made in bulk for good value wines. That wasn’t what Ma­rina wanted. The psy­chol­ogy ma­jor be­gan the daunt­ing task of turn­ing around the es­tate while also learning oenol­ogy from the Suze la Rousse.

“It took three to four years to re­ally re­struc­ture ev­ery­thing,” Ma­rina ex­plains in her heav­ily ac­cented English. “We had to trel­lis six hectares of vine­yards, study the grapes and re­place those that were not suit­able, add other grapes such as Ver­mentino so that we could do a white wine, and prac­ti­cally buy or cre­ate ev­ery­thing – bot­tling ma­chines, crush­ers, tech­no­log­i­cally

im­proved fer­men­ta­tion tanks, vats, la­bels. On top of that we had to re­struc­ture the sales and sell our wines!” The turn­ing point was in 2010, when ev­ery­thing started to pull to­gether and they were able to re­lease the newly cre­ated pre­mium ranges of Ma­rina and Elis­a­beth in 2011 – which im­me­di­ately started to win awards. In­ter­jects Chris­tian, “We ul­ti­mately spent al­most as much on re­struc­tur­ing in the first four years as we did on pur­chas­ing the prop­erty.”

Barge­mone came with its il­lus­tri­ous his­tory. The main build­ing, which was not sold to the Garins, was built in the 13th cen­tury by the Knights Tem­plars as a place of re­treat. Later the lands be­longed to the first Con­sul of the town of Aix, Pierre d’ar­baud tak­ing the name of Ar­baud of Barge­mont. Its vine­yards suc­cumbed, af­ter 800 years, to phyl­lox­era in the late 19th cen­tury, and was re­sus­ci­tated by Rozan. The es­tate grew to over 60 hectares, with vines typ­i­cal of Aix in­clud­ing Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Cin­sault, Syrah, Gre­nache and Ugni Blanc. While they’re sus­tain­ably grown, they are now in the process of get­ting or­gan­i­cally cer­ti­fied as well.

It’s in the blend

Rosé is all about achiev­ing the right blend, and this tech­ni­cal task falls on Ma­rina to de­fine the house style and find the right ex­pres­sion. “This re­gion is fa­mous for Rosé as it re­ally knows how to do it well,” she says. “It’s about know­ing what to do with the grape to get the right sen­sa­tion – of fruit, colour, flavour, min­er­als. It is such a com­plex wine that gives so much plea­sure when it’s done right.”

Ma­rina is aided by a lab­o­ra­tory that runs an­a­lyt­ics on the grapes, help­ing her mon­i­tor the mi­croflora with each wine, ad­here to reg­u­la­tions, and also meet­ing ex­port reg­u­la­tions es­pe­cially to the U.S., which is an im­por­tant mar­ket where it’s usu­ally favourable rated in the 88-90 band by crit­ics. “In the be­gin­ning, the stress of de­vel­op­ing the right taste was aw­ful,” con­fides Ma­rina. “You al­ways ask your­self, is it good or not? Am I mak­ing the right de­ci­sions?”

That’s why it was im­por­tant to in­vest in the in­di­vid­ual vats for vini­fy­ing the parcels, and they now have over 50 tanks that hold grapes from over 50 plots of ter­roir. “Now I’m con­fi­dent and I ac­tu­ally do like mak­ing it, and peo­ple want more and more of it. Aix-en­provence has ex­cel­lent ter­roir, with calcene that gives its wines a par­tic­u­lar min­er­al­ity. It’s also sunny, which also gives the grape ex­cel­lent flower and al­mond notes. I love Syrah most, with its red fruit and, wild straw­berry char­ac­ter,” pro­fesses Ma­rina. She’s also en­er­gised by be­ing sur­rounded by young peo­ple, in­clud­ing her youngest son, 23-year-old Au­gus­tine who has started work­ing at the win­ery, and 29-year-old wine­maker Ni­co­las Mertz, who came from Bordeaux. “I’m strict when work­ing but never bor­ing,” she twin­kles at me when I ask about her work­ing style. “At the end of the day, what mo­ti­vates me to make wine is to give some­thing to peo­ple that makes them happy. Wine should be a plea­sure.”

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