It’s been quite some time since the last post in our “5 Questions With…” series, but after tasting a phenomenal #wine and then learning its even more interesting backstory, I decided a revival was needed! I think it’s no non-surprise for my regular readers that we are huge fans of rosé here at #Vinopanion. YC Media sent me a bottle earlier this year by a brand new producer from one of the finest regions in the world Provence, France. I was thoroughly blown away by this first time effort; the 2013 release from Mirabeau Wine (WL, FB, Tw, YT, IG) had all the characteristics that make up a complex, yet extremely tasty rosé: crisp acidity, juicy red fruits, fresh herbs, and even some fine floral notes. I was hooked. Then I found out that this wine was made by a former financier that completely upped and moved his family to Provence to make wine, job-quitting included. I had to know more.
1. Ward Kadel: You have made the, from afar, enviable leap to becoming an ex-pat winemaker, complete with initial success in a beautiful little Proveçal village to now call home. What are the most surprisingly difficult and easiest situations that you’ve encountered along the way?
Stephen : I originally set out to be a kind of ‘Guigal in Provence’ – i.e. to make awesome wines under my Mirabeau brand and to work only with the very best growers in the region. In the early days it was very difficult to find wineries to work with even though I was offering to buy their surplus wine (i.e. the wine they were not selling under their own domaine names) at a competitive market rate, but so many were not even interested to meet with me. But I did eventually start to meet the right wineries and it’s been working well ever since.
2. Ward Kadel: Did you pull inspiration or request advice from others that have made a somewhat similar leap, eg. Peter Mayle or Frances Mayes?
Stephen: To some extent I’d been inspired by Peter Mayle as I’d read his books some 20 years ago. I had friends in London urging me to get a film crew to follow us on our journey (i.e. they believed it would be a great Mayle-sque adventure and make make for good TV). But good TV is really when things go wrong and I couldn’t afford to let that happen, having quit a good job, sold our house and taken our children away from their lovely schools (and friends). This had to work from the get-go. Or I would end up broke and divorced.
3. Ward Kadel: Out of all of the many fantastic wine regions in the world, what drew you Provence and its rosés for your winemaking adventure?
Stephen: Provence had two big draws for us. Firstly it’s a beautiful region (that my wife knew well from her childhood holidays spent here) and it is also producing a wine (Provence Rosé) that is currently seeing a big resurgence in popularity. We also had a smattering of French and this place is only a short flight away from our friends and family.
4. Kadel: Following your delicious first three releases, what’s next for your family and for Mirabeau Wine?
Stephen: On the personal front, we have just started building our house here. It’s a ground-up project and I’m happy to say that my cellar is already built! On the business front we will continue to experiment with rosé and looking for ways to fine-tune and improve our blends. Other than that we need to keep opening up new markets so we can sell more. We’re hoping to finally be able to draw a small salary in 2015….
5. Ward Kadel: Lastly, any advice for the aspiring winemaker, emigrant or no?
Stephen: I could write a book of advice – but the main advice is to speak to as many people as you can who know better than you. I was given some advice that helped prevent me from making some howling errors, including buying a vineyard with all our savings which would have left no cash in the bank. It seemed like such a neat idea at the time, but the dream was way off the reality. I was advised that I needed at least 10 years worth of capital in the bank after buying a vineyard. And in fact, this same fellow told me that “every time you’re thinking about buying a vineyard, go lie down in a dark room until that feeling passes”. Although I’m about to take on a small vineyard just outside our village (and I won’t be telling him!)