With three châteaux to their name, the Sumeire family has lived near Mont Sainte Victoire since the 13th century. Located by the base of Mt. Sainte Victoire, near Aix-en-Provence, the vineyards of Château Coussin once supported vines as far back as 102 B.C., and were later cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans who produced exclusively rosé. Fast forward to the 18th century, the underground cellar that now serves as the family's residential dining room was where wine was once made by the château's namesake, Esprit Jean-Baptiste Coussin. In 1903 Jean-Baptiste Gautier, of the Sumeire ancestral line, purchased the country house (pictured above) which is adjoined to the current winery and is where the family now resides. Releasing their first vintage in 1983, the Sumeire family wine is now vinified by Olivier Sumeire – an eighth generation winemaker– who took to the cellar's helm in 2001.
With one-third of their wines coming from Ste. Victoire –a sub-appellation of Provence where 90% of the wine produced is rosé– and two-thirds from Provence, where approximately 88% of the wines yielded are rosé, Château Coussin produces eight wines, including Château Coussin Rosé Sainte Victoire, Château Coussin Rouge Sainte Victoire and La Croix du Prieur Rosé. Located in the path of the Mistral wind, Ste. Victoire earned its AOC status in 2005, after 20 years of deliberations that were partially led by Olivier's uncle.
Certified Ecocert for many years, the vineyards at Château Coussin are home to the hares and partridges who live amongst the vines. "Hunting season starts after everyone has brought in their grapes," said Olivier's wife Annabelle. "Olivier hunts hare and partridge; it's part of the tradition," she added and laughed, "but he can't do it for long because he can't escape his eye from the vineyard. He can't stop paying attention!"
At the Château with Annabelle Sumeire (pictured left) – Patty, Joe and Patrick
Still adhering to the practices of organic winegrowing, Château Coussin is no longer certified, due to the efforts of their electrodialysis machine that prevents tartrates from forming in the bottle. By ridding the ions that are responsible for tartrates right before bottling, the machine is typically rented by the wineries that use it, but because of their prolific production of rosé, Château Coussin decided to purchase one for their own use.
In addition to avoiding pesticide usage in the vineyards, the family adheres to the "Mediterranean Nutrition in Provence" (NMP) charter, whose goal is to "respect both the environment and the health of the users and consumers" by focusing "on disease prevention methods, biological processes, the plant's natural defense mechanisms, crop science and the soil potential for each terroir." With vines that were planted in 1976 without the use of chemical weed control, the family has been practicing traditional growing methods since their chateau's inception.
The Electrodialysis Machine
With the old cellar located within the family's home, Annabelle explained that the fireplace here used to heat the room to start the wine's fermentation. Nowadays, the extended family gathers here for meals on Sunday.
The old cellar at Château Coussin
Surrounding the chateaux, there's a mix of Ste. Victoire and Provence vineyards that are planted to Grenache and Cinsault mostly. Vinified from vines that average 30 years in age, the Château Coussin Sainte Victoire 2012 is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 10% Syrah that are planted to soils of clay-limestone that are "made up of ancient gravelly alluvial deposits, vestiges of a huge alluvial cone from the streams descending Mont Ste. Victoire and bordered to the south by Mont Olympe and Monte Aurélien." De-stemmed, the free-run juice is then separated from the pressed juice, which are both fermented separately before spending four months in tank.
The Château Coussin La Croix du Prieur 2012 is the estate's second wine, that is made from a plot that belonged to the monks of the Abbey of Saint Victoir in Marseille in the Middle Ages. Here too, the vines average 30 years in age and are planted to soils of alluvial limestone. A blend of 55% Grenache, 40% Cinsault and 5% Syrah, the wine sees a 15-day fermentation followed by 2.5 months in the tank before bottling.