It is not uncommon in France to speak of wines being the fruit of the “terroir” in which the grape vines have been grown. In fact, this is a concept that is so quintessentially French that the word is unique to the French language! There is no equivalent word in the English language, so what does “terroir” actually mean?
In essence it connotes the subtle interplay between climate, soil, topography, plant and man. The last element, sometimes overlooked, is crucial, as it is the winegrower who must patiently and skilfully coax the vines to produce healthy, perfectly ripened grapes that are the optimum expression of the “terroir” in which they are grown.
In general vines flourish in soil that is poor but balanced. The poor soil forces the vines to plunge their roots into the ground in search of water and nourishment. As the roots reach deep into the earth, they encounter and take sustenance from layer after layer of soil and rocks, each different layer adding to the depth and complexity of the wines they will produce.
The soil’s composition and the trace elements contained therein, together with its water content will contribute to the taste of the wine. Clayey soils produce wines that are more full-bodied and powerful with firm tannins, while sandy soils produce rounder, suppler wines with fruity aromas. Limestone soils lend good minerality and floral notes.
The soils on our hillside slopes are poorer than those in the plains, therefore the vines grown there are less vigorous and the yields are lower. However the grapes are of higher quality, therefore their wines are generally more concentrated.
Wines destined for our AOC Séguret Village reds are produced predominantly from these low yielding soil types made up of sandstone and fine sand, often covered in limestone scree sited in the foothills of Séguret.
Those going into the production of our Cotes du Rhone reds and whites are from the argillaceous limestone soils in the lower lying valley as well as from the foothills near Vaison la Romaine where our property of “La Grange Vieille” is situated. This 17acre property is made up extensively of extremely stony soil and argillaceous limestone.
Our easy drinking “Vins de Pays” red and rosé wines are produced from dryer, sandy soils in the plain of the Ouveze river valley and near the village of Jonquieres where we farm 17 further acres.
The climate determines the growth and ripening of the grape. Hence all elements of the climate are part of the terroir: rainfall, wind, sunshine and air temperature. Here in Provence there are four distinct seasons: two dry seasons, one in the winter and a long, extreme one in the summer; and two wet seasons (the autumn, with abundant and sometimes violent rainfall) and the spring. The distinctive Mediterranean climate is a tremendous advantage:
¤ The northerly Mistral wind dries and purifies the vines; significantly reducing humidity and the fungal diseases that come with it
¤ The rainy seasons are very regular and predictable
¤ Hot, dry summers
The skills, methods and ethos of the winegrower play a vital role in the winegrowing, and we believe that we have an excellent team in the vineyards.
Jean Pierre Verdeau and Alex Suter (assisted by Alex’s daughter Mathilde) combine to bring a wealth of hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of viticultural practices and techniques, together with an intuitive affinity with the soil and an appreciation of the subtleties of “terroir”.
At Domaine de l’Amandine it is in the vineyard that the quest begins to create wines that are authentic, unique and an eloquent expression of the local terroir. Great wines can only be produced from first rate grapes, therefore Jena-Pierre and Alex tend to their vines lovingly and methodically throughout the year and in a manner that is respectful of - and in harmony with - their terroir. The winegrowing is undertaken and supervised entirely by the family using traditional methods and techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. Their first priority is therefore to respect nature’s growth cycle and the uniqueness of their terroir rather than to look for maximum yields, artificial short-cuts and a “one size fits all” approach.
Specifically, the winegrower decides which plots of land to cultivate and which grapes varieties to plant in those plots. He also tends to the vines and to the soil throughout the year – and takes the important decision as to when to harvest the grapes.