WELCOME TO CHÊNE BLEU
Chêne Bleu wines are named after the blue oak tree on our estate, the SCEA Domaine de la Verrière. La Verrière is an isolated medieval priory in Crestet, at the southern border of Gigondas in the Vaucluse region of Provence. In a project that has spanned a decade, we have restored and improved our idyllic mountain vineyards to the highest international standards. Our wines are not related to those of another Domaine de La Verrière, in Goult.
Respect of Nature
We have introduced sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices to underscore our respect for the land and to help the vines and local flora and fauna thrive.
medieval meets modern
Among the outbuildings of the original priory, we have created a modern winery that integrates handcrafted traditions with the latest insights into fine wine production. Its design enables us to implement the most exacting practices so as to assist us in carefully crafting our unique wines.
Our objective has been to exert ourselves to the utmost and to bring out from the land and the vines the finest expression that can possibly be expected.
Along with Jean-Louis, Bénédicte, (Xavier’s brother-in-law and sister) and our team of distinguished friends – local experts and international consultants - we have worked really, really hard to create these wines. We are passionate about our project, which represents the culmination of our collective world views and a shared pursuit of excellence.
As our motto implies, we believe deeply in the value of exchanging experience and ideas with other wine makers, professionals and enthusiasts.
Winemaking is an exercise in humility. Handmade wines are costly and time-consuming to produce. However, we are convinced that bespoke wines of the highest quality demand that investment.
This web-site contains excerpts from a conversation with Sarah Jane Evans, M.W.
Nicole and Xavier Rolet
Where do the Chêne Bleu wines come from?
Xavier: All our wines are grown, hand-picked, made and matured on the estate, the Domaine de La Verrière. Our Domaine lies in a privileged spot - a secluded mountain saddle above the little village of Crestet, north-east of Avignon, in the Dentelles de Montimirail mountains. We are on the northern face of the Mont St Amand, above Gigondas, in the foothills of Mont Ventoux, Provence’s highest mountain.
What is so special about the location?
Xavier: The property lies at 550m, almost 1600ft, making us one of the highest vineyards in the Vaucluse, and in the South of France. The rolling slopes, facing south to the Mont St Amand and south-east to Mont Ventoux, are dominated by the unmistakable, jagged peaks of the limestone Dentelles, which means ‘lace’ in French. From the back of the winery, an uninterrupted panorama opens up to the valley of Vaison-la-Romaine and the fertile plains of the Drôme. I never tire of the view.
You are certainly cut off from civilization
Xavier: Yes, and UNESCO recognized the benefit of that isolation, when it designated the region a Biosphere Reserve. Our Domaine is ringed by a pine and oak forest, protecting the vines from pollution. It is a wildlife haven.
What does all this mean for a wine-lover?
Xavier: The Domaine lies in a very special place, just where the Rhône and Provence Appellations meet on the southern border of Gigondas. Our high altitude terroir of limestone and clay is unique and exceptional. I find the winemakers and experts who come to visit get very excited! The purity of the environment also means that we can work according to biodynamic principles, creating a healthy, vibrant vineyard.
What are the origins of the Domaine?
Nicole: You are very conscious of the presence of eleven centuries of history at La Verrière. The Domaine has been connected with wine since the Middle Ages, when it was a grape-growing dependency of the Abbaye of Prebayon. In 1427, Aliot de Montvin was licensed to blow glass there - hence its name of La Verrière.
How did you discover it?
Xavier: I had been looking for some time for a property in the area. In 1993, I stumbled across a faded photo in an estate agency. The Domaine had been abandoned because of disagreements about inheritance. It had been on the market for many years and no one wanted to put in the work to restore it. I was intrigued and went up to take a look. The house was derelict and the vineyards needed a lot of care. It was a very popular place for ramblers and artists of local and international repute, including HRH the Prince of Wales, who painted the house in 1989.
It was a real ruin, so what tempted you?
Xavier: I’m a Frenchman and, as a child, my happiest times were spent in the country, with my grandparents, learning to fish. I’ve spent much of my life working in big cities but the country always feels like home to me.
When did you start to focus on the vineyard?
Xavier: I appreciate fine wine so I looked forward to fixing up the vineyard. In doing so we gradually discovered, with the help of specialists, that our terroir was a diamond in the rough. It was not until we had this validation from objective outside experts that we felt ready to take the next step. Only then did we cross the Rubicon and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to propelling this project to such ambitious goals. We began to feel that we had a moral obligation to revive our vines and to lead them to express the maximum potential of their extraordinary site and capture that through the winemaking process.
THE BLUE OAK
Nicole: Chêne Bleu, the ‘Blue Oak’, is named after a magnificent ancient oak that presides over the vineyard and the priory buildings.
Tree Sculptor Extraordinaire
It suffered in the drought of 2005, so Marco Nucera, the internationally famed tree sculptor based in Provence, painted it with bouillie bordelaise (the ‘Bordeaux mixture’ of copper sulphate, traditionally used to protect vines).
Unique Piece of Art
The blue-green color of the treatment enhanced the beautiful structure and the enduring inner strength of its architecture. The result was to uncover an arresting piece of natural art. The Chêne Bleu has become a fitting metaphor for our project, where we seek to preserve and protect the very essence of the site while showcasing its exceptional quality and character. We repaint it every year.