All will become clear.
2013 was our third vintage and fourth year in France, and what a year it’s been.
We’ve taken possession of a 400 year-old former winery in our village which we will renovate next year to become our showroom, barrel cellar, office and tasting centre. We’ve got a new winemaker (Jo Ahearne Master of Wine, former winemaker at M&S and head wine-buyer at Harrods), we’ve won more awards for our rosé than ever before and we’ve had visits from some lovely and amazing people, including the grand sounding (but very cool) Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Greg Harrington and his lovely wife Pam (owners of Grammercy Cellars in Walla Walla in Washington state). Also our great new US agent, Jim Galtieri from New York as well as lots of friends, new and old. Oh, I forgot to mention, Jo trained as a winemaker at Charles Sturt university in Wagga Wagga. There you go, the full set of “so good they named it twice” towns.
The 2013 vintage was very challenging as the weather was not doing us many favours and whilst the quality is lovely, the quantity of fruit was really low for the second year in a row. And with Provence wines, particularly rosé (which makes up nearly 90% of what’s made here) becoming increasingly popular around the world, the supply/demand dynamics are leading to price increases as people search out benchmark wines from where rosé was invented 2,600 years ago.
Mirabeau is now selling in eight countries but the UK remains our biggest market, with Waitrose our largest customer – and with the UK finally enjoying a decent summer, we’ve had a few challenges keeping up with demand. But we’re fixing that by doubling our production for next year, let’s hope the UK summer will make another appearance, too.
Meanwhile Mirabeau is also being sold at Brasserie Blanc restaurants, the Balls Brothers wine bar chain in the city, the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath and at the Belfry Golf Club, as well as many other restaurants and hotels across the land. It was a great moment to pour a glass of Mirabeau behind the bar of our former local pub, The Kings Head in Teddington – who would have thought a few years back?
More local and family news – Josie and Felix are now both in college which means they have to catch the school bus at 7am (!) to the nearest large town of Brignoles. Meanwhile George is in his last year in maternelle and slowly beginning to learn the alphabet and beginning to read. We’ve found the low pressure environment in early years of education in France a big relief and George now actually wants to read (aged nearly 6), because he’s mentally ready, not because he has to. The kids are still really enjoying living here and we’ve made the most of the great outdoors here on our doorstep.
Cotignac is hotting-up with election fever with the mayoral candidates locking horns in earnest now in the run-up to polling day in March. It’s our first time living in a village and to see how the two candidates are splitting the town in two is fascinating, as it happens across families and old friendships (but nothing compared to what it must have been like here during the occupation. Let’s not even go there). The race for the top job at the place de la Mairie is between the existing mayor, who has reigned supreme for more than 25 years and a senior member of his existing team. Getting stuff done in this climate is more complicated than it already was, as decision makers are now hyper-concerned about potentially making decisions that may come back to haunt them. Which means lots of kicking stuff into the long grass. We’re hedging our bets and trying to stay on the right side of both, as we have many favours to ask of whoever wins given our various projects.
And it’s not just local politics that form the discussions in the bars and cafés of Cotignac, as more and more people are expressing their disappointment and disdain with their national president François Hollande – who won the vote last year on implausible populist promises (and rather unsurprisingly has failed to deliver on any of them). Whilst the day-to-day activities keep ticking over, it feels like there are a few clouds gathering over the usually cloudless skies of Provence and that life for many people will get harder before it gets better. But according to local estate agents, the Brits are seriously back in town, buying and renovating nice properties and a very welcome sign of growing confidence back home.
But back to wine and on a more cheerful note, we’re creating a second Mirabeau rosé label this year and, well, it’s absolutely stunning. Our objective was to create a pale, slightly more structured, gastronomic rosé that would give the very top chateaux of the region a run for their money. The brief for Jo was to make the best rosé from the region without any budget restrictions. In other words, the best rosé money can buy from some of the most gorgeous parcels in Provence. We’ve gone for a very pure and classy design, which means it’ll be an extra pleasure to have a bottle on the table at home or when you eat out. But we’re keeping the design secret until the launch in the Spring of next year…
But in the meantime, as families begin to gather for Christmas, we wanted to say to everyone who follows us, or have ever bought a bottle of Mirabeau, a very warm hearted thank you from all of us. We make our wines for you and we get such a thrill when we hear from people who love Mirabeau as much as we do.
Seasons greetings, Happy Christmas and wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year ahead.