We organize regularly, together with the “Grandes Ecoles” Alumni group living in the South-East of France called “Greco”, some visits in different wine estates. We were on Saturday at Château Revelette, in the Coteaux d’Aix en Provence area.
Peter Fischer took iver the estate in 1985, after having worked in the cellar. He is a German Agronmist and Oeonologist. He works organically but prefers to talk about a “Terroir” approach.
The property is an old farm from the 15th century, at a time when the production of “lavandin” was very important in the area. The main building has benefited from several improvements throughout the years, passing from a wealthy family from Aix to another.
The total production is of 125 000 bottles, on 30 ha (74 acres), as follows:
- 55 % red
- 20 % white
- 25 % rosé
- Cabernet Sauvignon remplaces Mourvèdre, found further south in Bandol or further North in the Rhône, as it does not ripen properly here.
- Grenache and Syrah, traditional grape varieties in the South.
- Carignan, which suffered from a very bad image in the Languedoc for several years, takes more and more importance, with drastic yied limitations. It keeps a very high acidity.
- Cinsault brungs some suppleness to the wines.
- As for the whites, Chardonnay, Ugni blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Roussanne and Rolle allow for the production of both very aromatic and crisp whites.
Peter insists on the fact that he makes Terroir wines and not organic wines just for fashion. As a matter of fact, his production of rosé is much less important than the average in the are as he does not like fashionable light-coloured “Haribo style” rosé from Provence.
In the vineyard, Peter works organically and follows some principles of biodynamic farming. He uses some well decomposed compost to limit Nitrogen inputs and keeps grass on one row out of two. His yields are of 30 to 35 hl/ha. According to Peter, to produce more than this, you have to use non natural means as the only limiting factor is water.
Organic viticulture allows a better expression of terroir, instead of non-soil farming says Yoann Malandain, winemaker at Château Fontvert in Lourmarin. The production is very regular in quality from a vintage to another, organic matter mineralizes more easily ad roots go deeper in the soil.
Furthermore, the advantage of being located in the town of Jouques is that it is very spread out, so vene if some winemakers do not farm organically in the area, this does not affect organic vineyards.
Limestone is predominant, with a slightly high pH, but Peter explains that farming biodinamically halps reduce the pH.
Annual rainfall is of 600 to 700 mm. But on some exceptional years, it can be below 400 mm (which is actually under the desert annual rainfall). Vies have a tremendous capacity at dealing with drought. Some roots have been found as far as 50 meters from the vie in the soil.
Peter’s vineyards are sometimes hit by frost, as it happened this year, the last one being from May 16th.
In the cellar, Peter has the chance of having more room than what he actually needs.
Red wines are vinified in controlled temperature stainless steel tanks for classic wines and in foudres for the higher end wines. White and rosé are vinified in controlled temperature stainless steel tanks .
All the wines are vinified with indigenous yeasts, apart from rosé for which Peter uses non aromatic yeasts, keeping the original expression of the grape and terroir, while assuring a reliable fermentation.
Peter does not filter nor fine his wines, apart from the whites which are slightly filtered.
In 30 years, Peter says that wines have taken up to 3% alcohol. His technics to limit the alcohol level in his wines is to allow for a slightly higher yield, which dilutes the juice, hence a lower alcohol level. He explains that for several years, people have tried to make “parkerised” wines, big, dark and strong, whith yields as low as 20 hl/ha to allow for a deeper concentration. This, in addition to climate change, explains this increase in alcohol levels.
Red wines are aged in barrels, demi muids and foudres. 12 months for the higher end cuvées, 6 to 8 for the others. Only new barrels keep wine for 18 months, beacuse their intensity requires more time to actually blend with the wine. Peter keeps his barrels more than 10 years. Grenache is very prone to oxydation, therefore Peter tends to age it in older barrels, with less oxygen transfer. In opposition to this, Syrah can stand new barrels.
The barrel cellar, partialy dug in the rock, has a temperature of 10 to 15 °C throughout the year, with no sudden variations. Humidity is of 90%. The higher the humidity, the slower the wines will evolve as barrels will swell and let less oxygen in.
The “Pure” cuvée in white and rosé are experimental wines. They age in egg-shaped non-reinforced concrete tanks. The problem with reinforced concrete is that it creates a Farady cage effect, which disturbs the wine. These tanks breathe, just like barrels, but are fully neutral from a taste point of view. Each one weights 1.2 ton, so they egg shape avoids them breaking because of the weight. They are made following the golden ratio, which allows molecules to move permanently in the tank, avoiding oxydation. Their volume is of 660 litres (3 barrels).
Domaine Revelette white 2015 (AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence)
40% Ugni blanc, 35% Rolle and 25% Sauvignon blanc aged in concrete tanks.
Grapefruit, mint and white peach notes on the nose. Very crisp. Perfect for simple dishes such as fish plancha.
Le grand blanc 2014 (AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence)
60% chardonnay, 25% roussanne, 15% sauvignon blanc. Cold maceration then decanting. Macération à froid et débourbage. Free-run juice is aged in tanks and foudres, press juice in barrels (brings some weight and fat).
Almond paste notes on the nose, good freshness. On the palate, minty finish with a superb mineraluty. Perfect for a bouillabaisse or Bresse chicken with morrels.
Château Revelette rosé 2015 (AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence)
60% Grenache,25% Cinsault, 10% ugni blanc, 5% Carignan
Good freshness, pomegranate, raspberry and grapefruit notes.
Rosé PUR – Produit Uniquement de Raisins – 2014 (Vin de France)
Carignan 76%, Syrah 12% et Rolle 12%
Darker colour, reminding us of a Tavel. Malo-lactic fermentation abd no filtration.
Sour cherry and yellow fruit notes on the nose (medlar). On the palate, superb acidity, strong mara strawberry aromas, lightand elegant tannins. Peter recommends decanting this wine before serving.
Château Revelette red 2013 (AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence)
50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in tanks
On the nose Grenache is predominant with liquorice and prune notes. Very peppery on the palate with a good freshness, a touch of mint and fine and elegant tannins.
Red PUR 2015 (Vin de France)
Colour is lighter and a bit cloudy as this wine is not filtered. Caracteristic liquorice and prune notes from Grenache. Strong tannins, superb acidity.
Grand rouge 2015 (AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence)
40% Syrah, 40% cabernet-sauvignon, 20% grenache
Coffee and blackcurrant notes on the nose. On the palate, cedar and tobacco notes. Remarkable acidity. Strong but not dry tannins.