What do Chanel, perfume, and wine have in common? The answer is Château de Crémat, a castle built in the early 1900s with roots dating back to the Romans. It’s also one of the most prestigious Bellet vineyards in Nice. Surprisingly, the art of creating wine is akin to making perfume. Both require knowledge of chemistry, relentless experimentation, and refined senses. After all, making it isn’t difficult, however making a quality wine is.
After lunch, we went down to the wine cellar for a tour. As I was browsing around, I observed the interlocking double Cs on the wall. It’s a very familiar signage, one that belongs to the Chanel fashion house. When I asked our tour guide, he smiled and said it’s no coincidence. When Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was creating her signature No 5 perfume in Grasse, she happened to visit Château de Crémat. She asked owner Irene Bretz’s permission to borrow the interlocking Cs to use for her perfume. Irene was more than happy to comply. Thus, the roots of the famous Chanel logo is linked to a secluded Chateau in the Cote D’Azur. It just so happened Mademoiselle Chanel’s initials coincided with Chateau Crémat.
Wines are either fermented in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks. Wines in oak barrels age for a minimum of twelve months according with AOC standards. White wines are usually not aged in oak barrels; instead it’s fermented in stainless steel tanks. However, certain exceptions such as chardonnay are aged in oak. The majority of red wines are aged in oak, giving its characteristic woodsy flavour with hints of vanilla.
The order of the wine tasting proceeded as the following;
- 2013 white wine
- 2015 rosé wine
- 2013 red wine
The white wine comprised of 95% rolle, and 5% chardonnay. Rolle has origins dating back to Italy, which is known as vermentino. Lightly chilled before serving, this was a refreshing drink to have in the summer of the French Riviera. Semi dry and with hints of peach and citrus notes.
Rosé is the oldest type of wine. Whereas the Bordeaux region produce stunning reds, the Provence/French Riviera area is especially praised for their brilliant rosé. The main difference between the two lies in the maceration process. The skin of the grape is what affects the colour. By taking out the skins prematurely the colour stays a pale pink, hence rosé. This rosé was dominated by the braquet grape, found exclusively in the Bellet vineyards. In terms of food and wine pairing, rosé is incredibly versatile as it can hold up anything from seafood to red meats.
The vin rouge, the most tannic out of the three contained a mixture of grenache and folly noir (crazy black). Similarly to how rosé are made, the grape skins are left longer to ferment resulting in a deep burgundy colour full of anthocyanin. This was a medium bodied dry wine, with lots of wood aromas and hints of berries.
Whereas both the white wine and rosé were served chilled, the red wine was enjoyed at room temperature. The sommelier explained that lower temperatures accentuate the acidity, which preserves that crisp freshness coveted in white wines/rosé. Furthermore, the fruity aroma becomes more pronounced. Contrast this to red wines, which are suggested to be served at a slightly higher temperature than whites. This is to balance out the acidity and decrease the astringent nature. This helps strengthen the polyphenols resulting in a smoother mouth feel.
Château de Crémat is family owned and operated. The passion in the staff is extremely evident, and their dedication to preserving this lost art is noteworthy. Unlike most wineries that take shortcuts, Château de Crémat still creates wine like they did a century ago. Due to the limited production, the wines are not marketed to the mass public. Instead it’s made to be enjoyed by the elite clientele of the French Riviera. I was one of the lucky few to enjoy wine enriched with so much history!