Mas de Valériole produces white wines as sprightly and evocative as their rosés, and we are excited to dip into their lineup here with the “Charmentin”—a blend of 70% Rolle (Vermentino) and 30% Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel and bottled after six months on the fine lees.
This is a wine anchored no so much by its acidity, which is adequate yet not assertive, as by the cleansing sense of bitterness left on the palate by the thick-skinned Rolle. A subtle hint of salinity weaves its way into the generous but restrained fruit, and the domaine’s preference for low sulfur shows itself in the wine’s lift and purity.
Just upstream of the ancient city of Arles, the mighty Rhône river abruptly forks, and its resultant two arms—the southeasterly-flowing Grand Rhône and the southwesterly-flowing Petit Rhône—encircle the largest river delta in western Europe. The Camargue’s 360 square miles possess a raw and rugged beauty, far removed spiritually from the idyllic seaside beach towns of the Côte d’Azur, but equally as spectacular; Arles, after all, is where the likes of Gaugin, Picasso, and Van Gogh set up shop to capture the area’s spellbinding southern light.
The Camargue is renowned for its distinctive agricultural products: salt, from vast marshes that hug the Mediterranean; varyingly hued and deeply nutty wild rice; and, of course, wine. Just ten miles due south of Arles, the Michel family stewards the lovely Mas de Valériole, a 45-hectare estate founded in the early 15th century and purchased by the Michels in the late 1950s. Around the turn of the century, brothers Jean-Paul and Patrick Michel focused their energies on improving the estate’s wines, adopting organic viticultural practices in 2006 (certified today) and refining their approach in the cellar; today, the next generation is beginning to assume greater responsibilities, and there are exciting projects in the pipeline here…
Mas de Valériole’s vineyards, which today comprise 32 of their 45 hectares, encompass a variety of soil types: sand, clay, limestone, and alluvial loam deposited by the Grand Rhône. A reliably steady wind blowing in from the Mediterranean mitigates the Provence heat, facilitating their chemical-free approach to farming and ensuring modest alcohol levels for the wines. Produced from a variety of cépages, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, plus crossings like Caladoc (Grenache and Malbec) and Marselan (Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon) which are particularly well-suited to the Camargue’s climate, Mas de Valériole’s wines combine the breezy freshness one expects from Provence with a sense of wildness and an underlying salinity that is very Camarguais.
-Neal Rosenthal, Importer