1 – Origins

Welcome,

I will tell you a story, not any kind of story though… a tale of love and passion for grapevines and the nectar made from them… Wine.

This story… which I really want to share with you today, will transport you to the beginnings and bring you along with me on the current journey.

It all started 12 years ago… was entirely by chance… or maybe not, who knows, it must have been written somewhere, maybe destiny?

My great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were, respectively, grape grower and vintner. Yes, I can hear you say “Wow, this goes back a long way”.

Branded paperwork dating back from the time Auguste and Fortuné Pelissier were in business

It does go back indeed! But my father and grandfather never directly did anything with grapevines, even though they were abundant on family-owned grounds; I can only compare myself to those distant ancestors then.

Fortuné Pélissier in his chai in La Crau

A tiny bit of winemaker gene of some sorts must have been transmitted and skipped a few generations before it landed into my little self.

So… in short, the story goes like this.

On a day of March 2006, I was scouting around for houses in the area, to help a family member who was looking for a place to live in Provence. I have to say that I love everything related, in some way or another, to houses, architecture, renovation of old buildings, creation of living spaces, etc… By the way, if I have had time to do that in my life – but I was already busy with a million different things – I would have ended up in a real-estate related job; I love it that much.

But, that’s the the purpose of this blog, I digress… it’s highly probable, by the way, that I may often digress while narrating this adventure.

So, in March 2006, I stumble upon an ad which was describing a property composed of 40 acres of oak trees and 12 acres of vines in a little corner of the Var region, which I know all too well as the family house I’ve spent my childhood in, was only a few kilometres away from the place in that ad.

Childhood house, Mas de Beauvoisin-Fontfresque, Pourrières

To be even more specific, located between Sainte-Baume and Sainte-Victoire… two mountains small in size but majestic and reputed. One of which, Sainte-Victoire, was Paul Cézanne’s favorite art model. I do really understand why. I love this mountain; its elegance, with varying colour shades, pink when the sun sets, and on top of which a little cloud gets stuck when the following day weather is about to change.

Sainte-Victoire, par Alexis Rostan Photographie
Sainte-Victoire Mountain

Here you go, I just digressed. Anyway, I then book a meting with the agency who wrote the ad in order to visit the property being sold as-is… out of the blue… just curiosity really.

I make sure to inform my husband so he can also be present during that visit.

My initial intention wasn’t to purchase a vineyard, it seems lots of people dream about doing just that – as I’ve learnt afterwards – but it was not really a dream of mine… I was just intrigued by the place.

This day of march was decisive… even though everything appeared to be designed to make you run away from the place…

Chai, outside, March 2006

It was a bitter-cold day, fog was omnipresent, which is, altogether, quite rare in the area; everything was abandoned, there were rusted dumpsters, fallen trees, not a single leaf still attached; usual for a day of March but it made the whole location look as dismal as they come. The ‘chai’ (that place where the wine is actually made) did not see the light of wine in more than 40 years and its state was creepy at best. Old rabbit hutches were collecting dust inside; luckily without any rabbits in, poor little things…

Chai, inside, March 2006

Also on the property, two old houses, one of which had been left to rot without occupants for at least fifty years and needed to be entirely restored… The second one was entirely tasteless, without any real identity, the only positive point was that it was possible to live in it, mostly…

But the worst part… which is precisely what overturned my life in that moment… was the state of the grapevines… abandoned… without any care or love provided in the last 4 years.

Vines, outside, March 2006

That was it, the exact moment I knew what I had to do… I had to save those vines and rebuild this vineyard. I just COULD NOT let them die…

I’ve always loved vines. I loved to walk there and be surrounded by them when I was younger. I felt great there and loved the different shades of green observed on vine leaves, from delicate to dark depending on the varieties.

It might have been my artistic side which marvelled at this palette of colours, and I loved the smell coming from the soil between the vine rows, changing depending on what time of day it was, from the morning dew to the mid-day burning heat.

My favourite moment though, was the evening, at sunset, that point when temperature is ideal and crickets are starting to sing…

Sainte-Baume, par Alexis Rostan Photographie
Sainte-Baume Mountain

To be continued… next week. À bientôt.

Please leave any comments you may have in the section below.

Adapted from the original French by Yann Sicamois.

Photographs of mountains by Alexis Rostan Photographie.

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