And the Soprano is Singing in Luberon!


By Melba Allen

Just at the farthest gateway of the Provence region in the south of France, nestles the Côte du Luberon, a not so well-known wine region just south in the valley du Rhône and north of the Durance river. After finishing his obligation in the National military services, Thomas Montagne went home to take over the family business in wine-making at Château de Clapier.
When I first met Thomas Montagne many years ago, I had barely learned to speak French, and just finished taken wine appreciation and selling courses and knew only the wines that his father made from my studies which were quite good.  But when Thomas took over,  I tasted his first attempts in wine-making, he asked me what I thought about them. Quite frankly I said that I wasn’t impressed, and of course, he was more than disappointed with my answer. Much of his wines had too much oak influence and not enough fruit for my taste. But then again, I was still trying to find my so call ‘taste’ as a wine professional, but he didn’t know this at the time!
As the years past and I’ve become more proficient in wine tasting and appreciation,and with practice, Thomas was also improving his wine-making skills. I began to understand better the subtle fragrances and nuances of the wine coming from Luberon. While at the same time, Thomas wine quality also improving dramatically.  Regardless of my appreciation, it became a running joke between us that each time I would taste his wines, that I would automatically not like them.
Château de Clapier in Luberon between the 16th and 18th century, was a vineyard belonging to the Marquis de Mirabeau and handed down from father to son. They were all famous politicians, and wine lovers.While the name ” Clapier ” corresponds to the locality, it also comes from the Provençal word ” clapas ” meaning a stone heap. The soil was so pebbly, that the farmers had to cultivate around the heaps…
When the ancestor of Thomas, Théodore Barataud, purchased the estate in 1880, he built the vinification area then at the very height of the progressive times with de-stemming machines and installed big oak barrels of 240 hl. Brought in by train in separate pieces and then put together at the installation, these barrels still exists in the cellar today. Thomas has even gone further in modernizing the vineyards and its installations by adding horizontal pneumatic presses and temperature control vats.
As for the grapes that Thomas Montagne uses to make his wines, the Grenache and Syrah grape varieties are his preferred choices for his spicy red wines, which can age more than 10 years. The Cinsaut makes his simple red and rosé wines, while he uses the Pinot Noir sparingly to bring an original note to some of his more complex blends. Thomas uses four traditional grape varieties for his white wines, the Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Clairette (one of the oldest grapes in Provence) and Ugni blanc.
Today, I find that Thomas has finally found his identity as a wine-maker. After tasting his wines called Soprano  (Thomas loves symphony music) at the Blue Wine Expo in Marseilles last month, I can truly say that I like his wines now. The Soprano white 2009 is quite vivid with exotic fruit flavors, the rosé fresh with red fruit and the reds with good structure and dark fruit and personality at the same time. Thomas also has a red wine called the Calligrappe 2009 which is not as complex as the Soprano, but in which I like a lot!
So you see Thomas, all hope is not all lost on me altogether. Even though you don’t believe me, but it is true. I finally find lots of pleasure in drinking your wines!!!
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This entry was posted in Melba's Wine discoveries, Wine Appreciation, Wine Talk, Wine tourism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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