A weekend trip to Provence (on the brilliant St Pancras-Avignon direct Eurostar – highly recommended) allowed time for a quick visit to Clos des Cazaux in Vacqueyras and an hour or two with the marvellous Jean-Michel Vache.
An articulate advocate for sustainability not just in the vineyard but throughout every aspect of the business, Jean-Michel really is a model winemaker. Regular detailed checks of every element of the business (required by a larger merchant with stringent test processes) reveal impeccable practices. He has measures in place to ensure all of the water used in the winery is recycled. He cares for his vines as he would for a child, testing mineral levels in the soil to allow preemptive treatment of any minute imbalances. The beautiful condition of his vines is a testament to the effectiveness of his methods.
In the cool of the winery their bottling line whirs away, as his 2014 reds are ready for the next stage of their development.
Best known for his reds, I am always impressed by Jean-Michel’s whites; both the Vacqueyras Blanc Clefs d’Or, of which we have the 2012 vintage in stock, and his Vieilles Vignes, which is made in such limited quantities none leaves the country. The percentage of Clairette in both these wines balances the richness of the Marsanne and Roussanne resulting in a much fresher more appealing wine than many Southern Rhone whites.
He sent us on our way with two Vacqueyras to compare, one predominantly Grenache the other with a heftier proportion of Syrah. Shared with friends the group was split evenly, half liked the juicy crunchy red fruit of the Grenache while the others preferred the spicier more structured density of the second wine.
There was however total accord on how eminently delicious both were, enjoyed in the gentle light of a Southern French evening with a view over the fields to Mont Ventoux towering in the distance.