"Wines have been made here for 2000 years," said Aurélien Pont, the winemaker at Domaine de Chateau Pigoudet since 2008. "One mile south, you can see a Roman cellar, the second largest in the world," where one can find 50HL and 20HL Roman amphora. With 40ha of vineyards facing north, south, west and east, Chateau Pigoudet is situated at 400m above sea level, at the furtherest most north-eastern point of Côteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. Surrounded by pine trees, the slopes –home to the best parcels– are planted to Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the plains to Cinsault and Grenache. "For 120 years, wines have been made here," he later added, pointing to the the exposed wooden beams in the cellar where one can see inscriptions dated to 1910. With 85% of their fruit farmed for rosé production, the vineyards here are managed by Daniel Laugier, who has worked the vines for 25 years, and his son Benois. "He really loves the vines," said Aurélien. "They spend lots of time analyzing parcel by parcel," employing organic treatments and setting pheromone traps for insects.
Aurélien Pont with vines of Cabernet SauvignonPlanted to soils of chalky clay with lots of small stone and gravel, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines here (pictured above) were planted in 2000. Each year, Daniel and Benois remove and replant 1ha of vines, employing the "layering" effect of propagation. This year, they replanted 4000 vines in a single hectare by twisting the canes of old vines down into the soil so that they remain in contact with the old vine as it begins to develop its own root system. "If you cut the cane," explained Aurélien, "it's not protected [from phylloxera] by the rootstock." As the Mistral passes through the vines each day at 1:00PM, the grapes and vines are dried, resulting in high-quality fruit without the use of chemical treatments. This, in addition to the cold nights that allow the grapes to ripen slowly, helps preserve the wine's aromas and acidity. "To produce rosé, we need acidity," said Aurélien. "For the rosé, we taste the grapes and make an analysis between acidity and sugar, and they we harvest." In 2012, he continued, "we had time to taste the fruit in the field. We felt a big change every four days." The 2012 vintage saw the Cabernet Sauvignon ripen first, followed by Grenache and then Syrah.
In the cellarHarvested between 3:00-9:00 AM, the grapes for their white and rosé wines are then brought to the winery, which is just five minutes away. "We need cool grapes for less color, less body and [fewer] heavy aromas," said Aurélien, "we want elegance." Six years ago, they used to wait for 45 minutes to remove the free-run juice from the press, now they wait just ten, "because we want lighter color and body." Starting four years ago, Pigoudet began to leave the juice on its sediment after pressing and before racking, at zero degrees celsius, for 4-15 days, to further the development of aromas during fermentation. One "can find heavy rosé wines from Aix-en-Provence, which is why we started the stabilization four years ago, to preserve the freshness and aromas." After racking to another tank, they ferment each varietal separately with natural yeast, at low temperatures, a "process that produces a lot of citrus aromas with a roundness that fills your mouth."
Chateau PigoudetLaunched three years ago, because "we wanted to produce a high quality rosé," the Chateau Pigoudet 'Insolite' 2012 is made from vines that average 35-years in age. A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Grenache and 5% Syrah, the wines were aged for 4 months in stainless steel, before being blended. At 13.5%, the 2012 is clean and light with chalky aromas, fresh acidity and strawberry/cherry fruit. Slightly fruiter than the 'Insolite', the Pigoudet Premiere 2012 is a blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cinsault and 10% Syrah that offers strawberry and citrus fruits infused with white stone minerality, followed by a linear driven acidity on the palate.