Wine, spirituality and ecology were the notes at a wine tasting party for Chêne Bleu wines, at the London townhouse
of vineyard owners Nicole and Xavier Rolet. Acquired in 1993, the Rolet's have lovingly transformed La Verrière, an abandoned vineyard in the Vaucluse region of Provence, into a biodynamic award-winning vineyard, and a renovated to perfection chateau, complete with infinity pool.
The key to their kingdom was eliminating the chemicals to which most vineyards are addicted. We were shocked to learn how many are hidden in conventional wines. A key facilitator towards returning to the natural order was the apiary they built.
Xavier Rolet. (Photo: Lee Fryd)
"The ancient Greeks believed that bees actually collected honey from the heavens, so there's always been a very strong connection between bees and spirituality," Xavier Rolet told the room of friends gathered for the tasting. "Napoleon made bees his emblem and in Ancient Greece they were a symbol of immortality."
We had moved from the whites and rosés to their signature reds, Abélard and Héloïse. The taste was appropriately divine.
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe," Einstein once stated, "then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
Xavier, a former CEO of the London Stock Exchange, as well as Lehman Brothers in France, was appointed an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015. French by birth, winemaking and bee keeping are in his blood. Nicole's professional background was in publications, banking and think tanks in the USA and in the UK.
That led her to found a think tank called Fine Minds for Fine Wines. "We believe that sustainability is a central aspect of the future of wine making," she said. "And we work with trade, press and consumers to hold all winemakers to this standard."
Toward that end, they developed a crowdfunding template which gives back more than the initial investment and the ability to participate in a roadmap for a better world (www.winefunding.com
). Sustaina-BEE-lity they call it and it the opportunity is available until the end of January. It's a way to own a slice of heaven, and be repaid in money, honey, wine and chateau privileges, all of the highest quality.
"You can't go cold turkey to get a vineyard off chemicals," Nicole explained. Trendy rosés are made with leftover conventional red wine grapes juiced with more chemicals to make up for the lack of flavor that stems from a depleted terroir. That's why they need to be drunk young. Her wines, like her guests, exuded true quality.
To get their soil back to producing naturally, flavorful wine, the Rolets had to alternate other plant species between the vineyard rows. And they needed bees to cross pollinate. Chemicals mess with the bees navigation systems, confusing them, rendering them unable to perform their tasks and ultimately killing them off. This is a worldwide problem. It took time, but, today, everything in the Rolet estate works together biodynamically.
"Nicole has been a breath of fresh air for the wine business," Master of Wine Richard Bampfield MN, told us. "Theirs is an estate in an area which doesn't have the traditional strengths or cues for quality wine yet they've built something amazing: a wonderful place to visit, producing exceptional wines. They've gone somewhere they love as a couple so they feel very, very attached to the place and they're producing wonderful wines. They've worked very hard, and shown what can be achieved."
They also host an Extreme Wine Experience (www.chenebleuextremewine.com
) at their estate, in July and September, a chance to stay at their chateau, take your wine sophistication up several notches and socialize with like-minded souls. And that is also divine.