CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Women winemakers

PUBLISHED: 10:45 04 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:41 05 January 2016

Vineyards at the family estate of Château de Beaupré © Dominic Rippon

Vineyards at the family estate of Château de Beaupré © Dominic Rippon

Archant

Winemaking in France was once a male preserve, but femmes vigneronnes are increasingly making their mark

Vigneronne Phanette Double © Dominic RipponVigneronne Phanette Double © Dominic Rippon

Only a few years ago, I bumped into a group of Belgian journalists on a French press trip with a difference: they were scheduled to meet only femmes vigneronnes (female winemakers). Their goal was to highlight the emergence of a minority group in the industry and – if possible – to identify a distinctively ‘feminine touch’ in their wines.

The world has, of course, moved on since a glass of rosé was not considered a fit drink for a rugby player. Still, I was impressed when I learned that many oenology courses in France now boast equal numbers of young men and women.

I travelled south to meet one of the new generation of femmes vigneronnes, at Château de Beaupré in the Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation. This grand 18th-century château, first planted with vines in 1890 by Baron Émile Double, is the kind of property that encourages preconceptions. Am I smartly enough dressed? How should I address the lord or lady of the manor? I relaxed as winemaker Phanette Double appeared at the door of the winery – a stone-built outhouse once used as a sheep barn, she explained.

The great-granddaughter of the baron, Phanette began her career as a hydraulic engineer, specialising in flood protection and the environment. Her interest in viticulture was reawakened through the study of water stress on plants, which eventually led her back to the ancestral home in the village of Saint-Cannat, 12 kilometres north-west of Aix-en-Provence.

I followed Phanette to a dusty camionette and strapped myself into the passenger seat for a tour of the estate’s 42 hectares of vines, planted within its beautiful 100-hectare forested park. I always look forward to these white-knuckle rides, in which the admiration of vinescapes is matched by astonishment at the off-road capabilities of a small van. I stowed my pen and listened to Phanette talk about organic viticulture.

“My father never used artificial fertilisers in our vineyards,” she told me, “but 2013 is our first vintage to be certified as organic. When my father [Christian] took over the vineyards from his father, he was in charge of winemaking while my mother took care of the business. Now the roles are reversed; I tend the vines and my brother Maxime runs the commercial side.”

Château de Beaupré makes fine white wines from rolle (or vermentino), semillon, sauvignon blanc and grenache blanc, but like most estates in the appellation, production is dominated by red and rosé, from the syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, cinsault and carignan grapes. During her studies of oenology, Phanette spent eight months working at Château Margaux in Bordeaux and she remains fascinated by the cabernet sauvignon grape. “There are many who would like to see less cabernet in the Côteaux d’Aix,” Phanette said. “But there is fascinating work under way to expose cabernet sauvignon vines to different situations and terroirs here, to see how and where they perform best.”

As we made our way back to the winery, Phanette’s casual demeanour belied a meticulous attention to detail: she had an eye on everything from the ripeness of grapes in the vineyard to fermentation temperatures and the next delivery of ‘dry goods’ in the cellar. Before we began tasting, Phanette explained the estate’s two contrasting methods of making whites and rosés: “Most grapes are pressed directly following the harvest, then the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks. But our ‘Collection du Château’ white – and a proportion of the rosé – is fermented in oak barrels, which gives fuller-bodied, more complex wines.”

Surprise ending

In the Burgundian fashion, we began by tasting the reds: the soft, fruity Cuvée du Château, in which the spicy syrah married beautifully with ripe cabernet fruit; then the more intense, oak-aged Collection du Château, with its leathery dark fruit flavours. We compared the grassy, citrus notes of the Cuvée du Château white with its big brother, Blanc Collection, which showed a mouth-watering array of apricot and mineral aromas and a rich palate – the result of barrel fermentation.

It seemed unorthodox to conclude our tasting with a pink wine, but the Collection Rosé was a surprise. 
On the nose, it revealed a complex marriage of spice and creamy red fruits, while the palate was fat and well-structured, with concentrated, savoury flavours; a great food partner which, unusually for a rosé, promised to age for a few years. I cast my mind back to the Belgian scribes and wondered how they might have reconciled the ‘feminine touch’ of a female winemaker with a rosé that was – in trade speak – such a ‘masculine wine’.

Château de Beaupré Route Nationale 7, 13760

Saint-Cannat, tel: (Fr) 4 42 57 33 59, www.beaupre.fr

Choice wine: Collection du Château Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2012

Taste: Spicy red fruit aromas with intense, full flavours

Best drunk with: Grilled fish or poultry

Price at the estate: €12.50

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Language and Culture

Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out. Find out the fascinating stories behind the names of these places in France featuring dragons, gods and Sardinian kings.

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Michel and Alain Roux have unveiled the menu at their new French-inspired riverside brasserie, Roux at Skindles

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

As a floating restaurant opens in Paris, we take a look at some of the city’s alternative dining experiences, involving famous rail carriages, secret doorways and eating in total darkness.

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kate Mosse was a guest speaker at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2018 and spoke about finding inspiration for her latest book – and beginning of a new series of novels set in France – The Burning Chambers.

Read more
Culture and attractions
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Agnès Poirier’s latest book explores the history of Paris 1940–1950 and the influential people that lived through the time. The French writer spoke about her book this year at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Read more
Thu, 12:24

What would the festive season be without a few games? Get in the competitive spirit with our Christmas language quiz

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

Gather the family and see how many of these animals you can name in French

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pigs, processions and high prices - why truffle season is a serious business in France

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

If you’re looking for a great wine to take home to impress your guests, you can now discover the best bottles in your neighbourhood at the touch of a button

Read more
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now