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  • Tamlyn Currin
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  • Tamlyn Currin
19 Jul 2013

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Making wine is a risky business. It's a never-ending tango, sometimes a dual, with capricious and occasionally cruel Mother Nature. Fire, mildew, rain, frost, and hail are just some of the annual threats a vigneron must face. Even so, it's not often that an entire year's harvest is wiped out in the breathtaking space of seven minutes.

Raimond de Villeneuve, owner of Ch de Roquefort in Provence since 1995, has always managed his vineyards biodynamically - and was lucky enough to take them over from previous owners who felt they couldn't afford chemicals! He makes dark brambly reds that explode with life and are wonderfully perfumed and wild with garrigue. His rosé, Corail, pale, fresh, and elegant, has been one of my favourites for several years. But on 1 July 2012, a hailstorm of unprecedented violence hit his vineyards and within minutes he had lost everything. What makes this story remarkable, though, is what followed.

37 vignerons, neighbours and friends and people from as far north as the Rhône started rolling in. Donating vines, grapes, or must, they gave him enough to create a cuvée so unique that it is a first in France: a vin issu de la communauté vigneronne. (I bet that had the bureaucrats in paroxysms of red tape.) And unlike their normal rosé, this one has to be classified as IGP Méditerranée. See the end of this article for the roll of honour of estates who helped (and, make no mistake, there are some seriously impressive names there). Corny as it sounds, it's people like these who restore faith in mankind. (See also Provençal rescue.)

Ch_Roquefort_Grele2012

Ch de Roquefort's La Grêle 2012 IGP Méditerranée has now been bottled and, bearing a striking label embossed with the names of every estate that contributed, it's a wine that really does give new meaning to the term 'assemblage'. It's pale, almost the creamy pink colour of antique roses. Quite restrained on the nose, then dry but with beautifully judged sweetness of fruit - peaches and raspberries. Very elegant, perfectly formed, lingering on the finish. Something about this wine put me in mind of an early morning walk through the cool crisp perfume of a formal rose garden. It has such quiet, ordered and understated loveliness. Who would think it had been born out of the tempest and destruction of a hailstorm?! The wine was open over three days and right to the end the freshness and fruit held true. A remarkable wine, not only for the story, but also for the pleasure it delivers in the glass. Bravo, Raimond de Villeneuve and the 37 generous winemakers of Provence!

It's currently available in the UK from St John Wines, but it's also available in a number of states in the USA, as well as in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. I confess to buying a case - it's my rosé of choice for this summer.

The 37 estates that contributed to La Grêle:

Ch de Beaupré
Ch de Pibarnon
Ch Lacoste
Ch de la Noblesse
Ch Les Mesclances
Ch Pradeaux
Ch Revelette
Ch Sainte-Anne
Ch Sulauze
Ch Vignelaure
Dom de Gayolle
Dom de la Bastide Blanche
Dom de la Bégude
Dom de la Mongestine
Dom de la Réaltière
Dom de la Tour du Bon
Doms Ott
Dom de Saint-Bacchi
Dom de Sulauze
Dom de Trévallon
Dom de Villeneuve
Dom de Bunan
Dom du Bagnol
Dom du Coulet
Dom du Sans Regret
Dom du Trapadis
Dom Henri Milan
Dom La Fourmente
Dom La Suffrène
Dom Les Béates
Dom Les Luquettes
Dom Les Terres Promises
Dom Pinchinat
Dom Richeaume
Dom Sorin
Dom Saint Louis-Jayne
Dom Tempier

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