If you are looking for a ‘Garden of Eden’, look no further than Provence, in the south of France. I must admit this was not my first visit to this stunning part of the world, or my first visit to Routas Winery. They say you can’t get enough of a good thing - the people and the wines here at Routas are something special, both have a unique character and personality that are intertwined. I think it will take me a lifetime of visits before I can say I truely understand the unique wines made here.
The location of Routas is spectacular; in the heart of Provence, halfway between the French Riviera and the Alps. It is surrounded by small medieval villages that cling to steep cliffs and kilometers of spectacular hillsides, forests and rivers.
These estate-grown and bottled wines have had positive reviews from all corners of the wine world. One of the many comments: "One of the best wine producers in Provence" - Robert Parker Jr.
In 2005 Scotland's Sir David Murray bought the estate, ushering in a dynamic new period for Chateau Routas. Due to the variable soils and intense summers, the reds from Routas can display a robust, Rhone-like richness, and its whites (e.g. Viognier) show maturity and vitality. Some soils are red like crushed brick, while others are crumbly grey limestone mixed with red stones that bleach in the hot sun. At 1,300ft above sea level, the elevation is among the appellation's highest, providing cool nights that slow the ripening of the grapes, contributing complexity and dictating harvests that are up to a month later than other nearby vineyards.
The estate's 260 hectares encompass wheat fields, olive trees, and truffles. Red poppies give way to brilliant yellow sunflowers, and in the autumn, the surrounding forests yield abundant mushrooms, that the local wild boar population feed upon, when they are not able to eat the grapes due to the electric fences.
Jean Louis Bavay - the winemaker was raised five hours north in Chablis. Jean Louis learned the art of making delicate rose at Bandol's Domaine Ott, a skill he has developed upon to produce the acclaimed Chateau Routas rose.
Jean Louis speaks of grape varieties in almost human terms. He is not a strong advocate of 50/50 blends; he feels that they fight with each other for dominance in the bottle. Jean Louis is looking for finer tannins, concentration and greater complexity in his wines.
Local born Philippe Saraciva - the vineyard manager has the soils under his fingernails. He discovered his life's work early on, learning from his grandfather, joining Chateau Routas fresh from school.
Philippe sees his challenge as producing the best possible grapes for Jean Louis. With over eighteen years' experience working together, the two have a near-telepathic relationship, timing the harvest for optimum complexity of flavour and adopting the time honoured method of hand picking their grapes. Routas only produce small volumes of; Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Viognier and Rose, so when in Europe keep your eyes open for the opportunity to sample these exciting and vibrant early drinking wines.