Part 4, in Selling Pleasure: the incredible success story of Provence rosé, with visits to some key producers

Website: www.mirabeauwine.com

As an example of the innovative thinking in the Provence region, take a look at entrepreneurial negociant operation Mirabeau, established by British ex-pat Stephen Cronk (pictured above). ‘The dream was to buy a vineyard,’ says Cronk, who discovered wine during a gap year in Australia in the mid-1980s, which he spent in the Barossa. Returning to the UK, he worked for Michael Morgan in the wine trade, did wine exams and set up his own company at the age of 24. It didn’t go well. By the time he was 30 he had huge debts and decided instead to get a corporate job, working for 15 years in telecoms, before he decided he wanted to return to wine. He toyed with buying a vineyard, but people in the industry explained the economics of vineyard ownership and persuaded him not to do it. ‘I think I can make better wine, more consistently and scalably, not owning vineyards,’ says Cronk. ‘For me the negociant model is the best one.’ But how could he build a brand without having a large budget for advertising? Cronk was inspired by a book written by Gary Vaynerchuk, the internet wine sensation, and he decided to leverage social media. He says this book, Crush It, changed his life.

As part of his social media strategy Cronk started making small videos. His savvy marketing approach appealed to UK supermarket Waitrose, who listed his wine. Then one of his videos – on how to open a wine bottle with a shoe – went viral. At the time of writing, it had 10.2 million views on YouTube, plus many others where the clip was embedded on other players. Cronk can’t be sure, but he thinks that this activity has had an impact on his brand building. ‘Sales in Waitrose went up 80% in the last year,’ says Cronk. ‘It could be about the stuff we are doing around the brand.’ Since then he has launched a new premium rosé called Pure, which has been selling very well.

When he started out, Angela Muir gave him help, but now he has consultancy from Jo Ahearne. She studied in Australia, and Cronk thinks it's important to bring new world thinking to old world winemaking. 'Rosé is quite a technical wine,' says Cronk, 'and it's easy to screw up.'

He says he's trying to make some of the best wines in the region, and create a genuinely engaging wine brand. He thinks the best way to do this is by concentrating on social media, as he doesn't have millions to spend on advertising. He's now selling wine in 20 countries.


Mirabeau 2014 Côtes de Provence, France
13% alcohol. Pale pink in colour. Smooth textured, pure red cherry and white plum fruit with a bit of citrus bite and hints of fine spices. Deliciously rounded. 88/100

Mirabeau Pure 2014 Côtes de Provence, France
13% alcohol. Beautifully packaged. Pale pink in colour. Lovely subtle, slightly creamy textured pear and white peach fruit with a subtle spiciness. Faintest hint of cherry fruit. Has freshness, elegance and texture, with a slightly saline character that’s nice. 91/100

Wines tasted 06/15

Jas d'Esclans
Domaine de Fontlade
Château Pigoudet
Château Gassier
Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Côtes de Provence Vidaubanaise
Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu'île de Saint Tropez.


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