We probably all have a mental image of the Provençal landscape: purple lavender fields in early summer, a blazing sun burning down from an azure blue sky onto white-walled houses with ochre-coloured pantiles and soft pastel shutters, shimmering on the vivid green of the garrigue. And everywhere there is the scent of summer. For even more than colour, Provence is the land of fragrance.
In viticultural terms this is the southern Côtes du Rhône. Many grape varieties are grown here, but for red wines the blend is based on Grenache, usually with Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault or Carignan. White wines are usually made from a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and, increasingly, Viognier, which produces the distinctive – and very expensive – wine, Condrieu, made in miniscule quantities in the northern Rhône.
Our vineyard, Domaine des Grands Devers, is near the small town of Valréas, and is run by brothers Louis-Pascal and Paul-Henri Bouchard, whose family once owned a famous wine négociant house in Beaune. They bought the domaine as a going concern and the 1999 harvest was their first. Paul-Henri, a qualified oenologist, is in charge of winemaking and we were indeed lucky to meet them when we did, as we were able to choose the exact percentage of each grape variety to go into our two exclusive Côtes du Rhône-Villages wines.