Palette wine - Château Simone
The Rougier family's Château Simone lies in the hamlet of Meyreuil just south-east of Aix-en-Provence and its imposing twin towers can be seen from the 'La Provençale' autoroute. The winery is housed within a former Carmelite monastery and its north-facing vineyards extend to about 50 hectares on either side of the river Arc. The appellation of Palette - created in 1948 - generously permits 17 different grape varieties, largely because many of them were growing there as a 'field blend' for generations before AOC status was bestowed upon the vineyard.
The current patron Jean-François continues the tradition of his forebears by producing red, white and rosé wines from a diverse range of grapes yielding characterful, age-worthy wines that make a marvellous accompaniment to the local Mediterranean cuisine. His white Château Simone is usually made from a blend of 80% Clairette, 10% Grenache Blanc, 5% Bourboulenc, 3% Ugni Blanc and 2% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. The hand-harvested grapes are pressed and the juice is vinified in vat before being racked into used oak barrels and left on their fine lees for 6 months. It is then racked off the lees and matured for a further 12 months before bottling. The finished wine merits decanting, has a wonderful bouquet of citrus peel, wild herbs and a complex stone-fruit palate that deepens and darkens with bottle age. It pairs well with poultry and seafood and features on the wine lists of many of the world's finest restaurants. Its sibling rosé is blended from 45% Grenache Noir, 30% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault and a 20% mixture of Syrah, Castet, Manosquin, Carignan, Muscatel and other rare varieties. After partial destemming, the grapes are crushed and the wine is then raised in oak barrels and clarified by racking. With a deep, ruby robe, a diverse summer berry bouquet and core of garrigue fruit offset by fresh acidity, it is more full-bodied than many rosés, can be cellared for 2 to 3+ years and makes a fine partner to substantial salads, crab and lobster. Completing a highly-regarded triumvirate is the red Château Simone - a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault plus around 20% of the same lesser-known varieties as the rosé. After being vinified in vats with regular rémontage for 2 to 3 weeks, it is then raised in small casks for 8 months and then larger barrels for a further year. Redolent of wild berries, herbs, black pepper and game, it gains complexity with 5 to 10+ years bottle age. A Provançale daube, rich in black olives, would be an ideal partner.