Château Simone: A Crown Jewel of Provence

How often do we think of benchmark wines that are no longer accessible, be it by scarcity or having been priced out of the market?  We love Chateau Rayas, Haut Brion, and Raveneau Les Clos, but we are honest wine merchants, and those are a bit beyond our budget these days, even when we can scare up a bottle.  But one benchmark is not only within reach but also exemplary in red, white, and with a game-changing, ageable rosé.  Chateau Simone is the crown jewel of the somewhat obscure Palette appellation in Provence. Comprised of approximately 20 hectares of northern-exposed limestone soils surrounded by pine forest, this cool (for the Var) microclimate results in wines of lower octane than others from the region.The domaine makes wines of great depth, savory cut, and refined wildness.

The organically farmed grapes are harvested by hand and destemmed. Fermentation commences with wild yeasts in wooden vats in Chateau Simone's 16th-century cellars. The wines then spend time in small foudres before resting in old barrels for a year.  The whites are mainly Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Muscat Blanc, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Furmint, and Sémillon. The red and rosé are predominantly Grenache, Mourvèdre, with an array of additional mixed varieties including Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet, Manosquin, Castet, Théoulier, Picpoul Noir, and Muscat de Hambourg per their importer.

The wines are excellent across the board and all particularly age-worthy.  In its youth, the red boasts a dark robe, plummy and wild berry aromas, with alpine forest notes intermingling with the fruit; the tannins are firm (never coarse), and there's a fine-grained mineral core within.  With age, resinous hints of bracken emerge to highlight the maturing fruit.  And for the quality of the red, the whites and rosé are considered by many to be better still.  The rosé is a burnished coppery hue with a circumspect nose upon release, which unfurls with age to reveal wild berry, garrigue, balsam, fine texture, and sapid soil notes.  The white is a wine of which we are especially enamored.  While delicious with a decant in its youth, it seems to age effortlessly, gaining a complexity not unlike mature white Bordeaux, Hunter Valley Sémillon, or Valentini Trebbiano.  Lemon oil, beeswax, rosemary, and bitter honey emerge after years in the cellar, with ten and twenty-year-old bottles still showing great freshness and verve.  A wine for the table, perhaps paired with turbot or braised rabbit and aged cheeses.

These beautiful, long-lived wines are among Provence's most traditional (and distinctive) and will shine with time in the cellar and at your table for years to come.
-John Mcllwain