Palette wine - Château Simone
Based in the hamlet of Meyreuil, 4 kilometres south-east of Aix-en-Provence, Château Simone has been run by the Rougier family since 1830 and remains one of France's outstanding bastions of traditional viticulture and vinification. Deploying an enviable palette of up to 17 grape varieties grown on the lacustrine limestone scree slopes of the Montaignet massif, they produce white, rosé and red wines of terrific character and a strong sense of terroir; this is a terrific outpost of Provençal Grands Vins.
Their white is made from a blend of 80% Clairette, 10% Grenache Blanc, 5% Bourboulenc, 3% Ugni Blanc and 2% Muscat that are hand-harvested and raised on their fine lees for 6 months before being racked into barrels of varying ages for a further year before bottling. The finished wine has a limpid yellow robe, inviting scrub scents and a sensuous orchard fruit palate with a long, elegant finish. It merits decanting and makes a marvellous partner to fish and chicken dishes. Its sibling rosé is made from a base of 45% Grenache Noir and 30% Mourvèdre along with a 'field blend' of Syrah, Castet, Manosquin, Carignan and Muscatel that are partially de-stemmed and raised in oak before release. It shows southern French rosé in a very pure light with a lovely ruby colour, bright red fruit bouquet and diverse flavours of garrigue berries with peppery undertones that can support 2-3 years bottle age.
Completing a commendable triumvirate is the red which is made from Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and a supporting cast of lesser-known varieties. It has a 20 month élevage in oak before being bottled without filtration. With dark fruit and herb aromas and a concentrated core of black plum and damson fruit with a framework of fine-grained tannins, it takes 3-5 years to reveal its full potential and will cellar well for (at least) a decade. It marries marvellously with local specialities: a gigot d'agneau generously studded with garlic and rosemary would be a good starting point.