My 2010 trip to France culminated with a visit and introduction to the wines of Château Miraval.
Situated deep in the heart of Provence, and not far from the town of Brignoles in department of the Var, Château Miraval’s history spans centuries. The domaine is situated close to the Via Aurelia, one of the five main “highways” radiating outward from Rome. Miraval first appears on a map in the 13th century, when it functioned as a monastery complete with vines.
In the 15th century, the Prince of Naples joined the French court and relocated to the Château. It was during this period that Miraval first appeared in the registry of Noble Houses. Throughout the next 400+ years Château Miraval remained in the possession of the noble Orsini family.
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that famed inventor Joseph-Louis Lambot made Château Miraval his home. Lambot is accredited with the invention of ferro-cement, which ultimately lead to the development of reinforced concrete. This, as you can imagine, is a pretty big deal.
Fast forward to the late 20th century and the history continues. Throughout the 1970’s, Miraval’s owner the famed french jazz pianist and composer Jacques Loussier set up his own recording studio on the domaine. Here at Studio Miraval, Loussier worked with a veritable pantheon of 1970s-80s rock musicians. Bands included Pink Floyd, Elton John, Sting, Yes, AC/DC, U2, and UB40.
In 1992 Loussier sold Miraval to Tom Bove, an american from Indiana who fell in love with the property and dedicated his efforts towards restoring both the domaine and vineyards at Miraval.
Fast forward to 2008..with tremendous improvements and rennovations at Miraval behind him, Mr. Bove has dived into a new labor of love, La Mascaronne, located about a 30 minute drive from Miraval. Presently, a high profile american couple and their young family have set about making this grand Provencal estate their new home.
On this particular day, I had the opportunity to meet with Emmanuel Gaujal, enologist and vineyard manager at Miraval. If anyone knows the soils, vines and wines of Provence, it has to be Monsieur Gaujal, as he has worked in the region and with Miraval since the early seventies. How fortunate was I to tour Miraval and the vineyards with the man who knows it best!
As we toured the property in our tiny quatre x quatre (4×4), Gaujal explained that the estate is situated at an altitude of approximately 350 meters (1150 ft.) and includes approximately to 400 hecatres (1000 acres) of land, of which 30 hectares (75 acres) are devoted to vines.
The vineyards flourish on the valley floor, protected by the surrounding forest of evergreen and white oak, and parasol, aleppo and maritime pine. The soils here are predominantly composed of limestone and clay interspersed with tiny pebbles.
The oldest vines on the property are cinsault, which is used primarily in the production of the domaine’s pink wine (more on this later). In addition, rolle, syrah, Grenache noir and blanc and cabernet sauvignon are cultivated. All of the vineyards are farmed along organic principles.
Behind the vineyards and the main property, majestic stone terraces planted to 13 varieties of olive trees endow Miraval with the unmistakable signature of Provence. On this day, a portion of the terraces were being renovated by a team of experienced stone workers.
Our little 4×4 scampered up to the top terrace to take in a view of the valley below.
And thank you to Stephen Cronk for the lovely photos.
Next: A wine tasting at Château Miraval.