The wines of Chêne Bleu
'Super Rhônes' from Domaine de la Verrière, Provence, France


Domaine de la Verrière, high up in the hills near Gigondas in the Rhône valley (Vaucluse, Provence), is home to a new wine project, called Chêne Bleu (the name comes from an oak tree on the property). I met with owner Nicole Sierra-Rolet and winemaker Jean-Louis Gallucci to taste these wines.

Vines have been grown at Verrière since the 9th century. The property, which was built as a medieval priory, was bought by Nicole’s husband Xavier Rolet in 1993, just before she met him. It had been abandoned for 40 years in an inheritance feud, with the vines being leased out to others.

The main house was completely abandoned, and the vines were a disaster, so there was a lot of work to be done. It now looks pristine. Xavier, whose background is in finance, used his lucrative day job to earn the large sums of cash needed for this renovation, and he leaves the day-to-day running of the property in the hands of Nicole, his sister Benedicte Gallucci (viticulturist) and brother-in-law Jean-Louis Gallucci (winemaker). 

Jean-Louis Gallucci, Laura Iverson and Nicole Rolet

The vineyards are on the same latitude as Châteauneuf du Pape, but are in the mountains above Gigondas at an altitude of 550–600 metres. It’s an isolated, private valley, without neighbours. ‘We built the logic of the project around this micro-terroir,’ says Nicole. The vines grow into hard schist, and it’s difficult to get them established. But once they are, the roots grow deep. There are currently 30 hectares planted.

Surrounding the vineyards there’s some garrigue, but also semi-Alpine evergreens. ‘The last 50–100 metres makes a huge difference in the change of flora,’ reveals Nicole. It’s an area where four appellations meet, so the wines are simply described on the label as Vin de Pays. Nicole is delighted that one journalist described them as the world’s first ‘Super Rhône’ estate, alluding to the super Tuscan movement.

The four-storey gravity-fed winery was completed in time for the 2006 vintage, which was the first made on the property. 


Chêne Bleu Rosé 2009 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
Salmon pink colour. Attractive textured palate with smooth, gentle strawberry fruit and a supple personality. Dry with no rough edges and some minerality. Grown-up ros
é. 88/100

Chêne Bleu Aliot 2008 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
A blend of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc with a hint of Marsanne. Spends 7 months in oak. Fresh grapefruit and citrus lift to the nose. Fine with white peach and a hint of apricot. The palate is lively and bright with some vanilla and spice notes, as well as some richness. Quite serious and could do with a couple of years for all the components to integrate more. 92/100

Chêne Bleu Viognier 2007 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
From 6 year old vines. 14% alcohol. Nicely elegant nose with ripe peach and pear notes as well as spicy vanilla oak. Fresh, textured palate with bright fruit and woody notes. Serious Viognier, if a little oaky at the moment. 91/100

Chêne Bleu Héloïse 2006 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
Syrah/Grenache blend with a touch of Viognier. Ripe, sweet lush nose of berry and blackberry fruit. The palate is ripe and lush with sweet berry fruits and a hint of meatiness. Nicely savoury with appealing bright berry fruits. Fresh and with some personality. 91/100

Chêne Bleu Abelard 2006 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Rich, spicy, meaty nose is lush and intense. The palate is bold and rich with nice density and warm, sweet, spicy fruit, backed up by some grippy structure. There’s lovely sweetness to the fruit and an attractive warm, savoury spiciness. 92/100

Wines tasted 05/11  
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