The grape varieties of Provence are a mosaic of no less than 14 types of grapes providing the wine grower a large range of options. The palette of flavors combined with the numerous terroirs allows the winemaker to create a wine that will reflect his personality.
At Chateau Bas the main varieties of red grapes are:
Grenache Everything has been said about this grape –its Spanish origin, its adaptation to the Mediterranean climate. Taken from the rich land surrounding Chateau Bas, we use it in rosé. It brings body, fruit and elegance when it is picked early and worked well in the cellar. Gentle manipulation when it arrives, a quick extraction, careful racking, and its color close to salmon. Its strength remains an indispensable support for the rosés taken with meals. Everything can be blended with Grenache—Cinsault, Syrah, even Cabernet. In red, Grenache can attain high alcoholic and phenolic maturity. Well drained land is preferable, the ever-present Mistral guarantees good health, and permanent grassing curbs the growth and moderates the size of grapes. The harvest can be late (mid-October) when a slight over-ripeness is reached. As in the rosé, it blends with all the other varieties. Assembled with Syrah or Cabernet it coats the final blend and smooths over the austerity of its two companions.
Cabernet-Sauvignon This “imported” variety becomes Provençale as soon as its yield is controlled and its maturity exceeded, which means we pick the grapes in mid- October. Finished the hint of green pepper and grass, its tight little grapes evoke the earth and red fruit. They say it is sensitive to drought but this has not been the case at Chateau Bas where it grows very well on dry, grassy soil as well as in rich, cool land. It is used primarily in red wine, occasionally to bolster Pierre du Sud rosé, but this is limited. It is found in the Temple and in Pierres du Sud in fermentation with Syrah and Grenache. Aging in oak casks is beneficial because it softens its ever-present structure.
Syrah Syrah is the daughter of the Rhone Valley, and although we are south of the Rhone Valley Syrah is present in all the ranges. It spreads its long branches everywhere: around the wine cellar on the plain, on the piedmont of the Badasset hills where it contributes to Pierres du Sud red along with Grenache and Cabernet, and to the thalweg of Badasset to take part in the Temple and Pierres du Sud rosé.
Cinsault More modest than Syrah, Cinsault is found at Chateau Bas and Badasset. It forms the base in the blends of our basic rosé with its light and fruity character. This variety of large grapes is well adapted to the meridional climate although it does suffer sometimes from the dryness of Badasset which goes to show that no man is a prophet. You will easily recognise it in the rose by its lasting,intoxicating fruit.
Mourvèdre Far from the sea, and yet it grows very well for us. Backed against the cliffs of Guillene, it benefits from an exceptional exposure. This variety from Spain contributes to the diversity of the blends of Temple rosé and red.
Counoise Gives elegance and subtlety contributing to the diversity of our blends.
WHITE WINES Sauvignon blanc. At Chateau Bas it is the first to bloom, the first to be picked. In the vineyard it hides its grapes, and in the cellar it hides as well. Depending on the circumstances it can develop modest and reserved or explode with ripe fruit and fragrant privet flowers. But whatever happens it is in the long run that it makes itself known. It never disappoints us.
Rolle or Vermentino Arriving directly from Corsica and Italy, this now indigenous vine invaded the Provencal vineyard. Not to be outdone, Chateau Bas planted four hectares of this generous grape. It is the most exuberant vine to see—dense and of a deep green. At harvest the grapes are as large as those of Cinsault, blond and golden they evoke abundance and generosity. One can imagine these grapes overflowing in a silver bowl, a preferred model for Italian artists and symbol of fertility. In the cellar this variety spreads its richness with an extensive aromatic palette reminiscent of pear, or fruit salad in the young wines. In three or four years it evolves in a dignified manner towards dried apricot and sweet almond. Oak casks don’t frighten this fruit, it comes out transfigured but still generous—more towards chestnut and dried fruits yet remaining rich and buttery.
White Grenache Another Grenache well adapted to the Mediterranean climate. It is planted at Badasset in a special plot. Its’ uniqueness benefits the Pierres du Sud white wine.
Ugni-blanc Like an old ancestor in this list of varieties, it was here before the arrival of the “modern” new varieties. In the eyes of the older winemakers it is part of the provencale identity and it has not been dethroned by the newcomers. Its freshness gives it a good place in the blending and on the good years it is included with the great wines. Ugni blanc is present in Alvernègue white where it renders the fruit and freshness that accompanies fish and shellfish.