Cedric Gravier (right) of Domaine de Suffrene
"I prefer wine with a small flaw," said Cedric Gravier, the proprietor and winemaker at Domaine de Suffrene in Bandol, "it adds character. If it's too perfect, it's boring. I try not to make the same wine each year. Each vintage, each bottle is different."
Inheriting 43ha of vines from his grandparents in 1996, Cedric was the first of four generations to skip the co-op so that he could bottle his own wines. With the oldest of vines at 80+ years old, he began replanting immediately, so that in the future he wouldn't have to replant all at once. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cincault, Carignan and Clairette. Employing his grandfather's experience, Cedric was able to determine where each varietal might work best, and though he still seeks guidance, enough time has passed for him to follow-up on the resulting fruit of his initial efforts.
Practicing sustainable farming on his current 52ha of vines, Cedric's vineyards are planted in a variety of locations, spread out between Cadiere d'Azur and the Castellet, with some on the hills and some in the valley. "At Suffrene, it's important to have a blend of terroir," said Cedric. "In the South of France, we have problems with acidity; there's not enough. With the different terroirs that I have, I get more acidity in the wines than what is typical of Bandol." And while the appellation of Bandol allows for yields of up to 40hl/ha, Cedric produces 35-40hl/ha to ensure that the yields are not too low and the wines not too concentrated. "If the vines are in good health," he added, "35-40hl is not a lot."
Domaine de Suffrene, Mouvedre 70 ans
With soils that are a blend of clay and chalk, Cedric says that his parcels in Bandol can consist of 90% clay or 90% chalk. And while it certainly requires more work to move from one parcel to another, such variety is a key component of his wines' final blend.
Practicing classic vinification techniques, Cedric uses direct press skin contact for his rosé wines that are fermented in stainless steel tanks or concrete. His Bandol Rouge is a blend of 55% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 10% Carignan, which is fermented with native yeast. Employing remontage two times a day, with no pieage, Cedric ages his Rouge for 18 months in foudre, before bottling.
"I think it's important for the wine to be drinkable," says Cedric, "so I'm always trying to make wine interesting on the nose–open–because it's the first impression when you drink."
Regarding familial impressions, Cedric is grateful that his inspiration skipped a generation. While it's his mother's parents who worked the land, she herself never labored in the vineyards. "It's different to have the relationship with [one's] grandparents instead of [one's] parents," he said and smiled, "which could have more conflict."