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The Rose of Languedoc

by Anne-Louise Bernard - July 19, 2017

For a passionate pair of wine lovers, running a winery was just a daydream – until a picturesque estate in Languedoc made their wish come true. Meet the couple behind your incredible Domaine Sainte Rose Brut Nature.

For Charles and Ruth Simpson, the lovely Domaine Sainte Rose Brut Nature in your July Bubble Box is, quite literally, a dream come true.

As Ruth says, “These days, when very few people can claim to be living their dream, we can categorically say that we are two of the few who can.”

Not too long ago, Ruth and Charles were living to work. They had demanding jobs, one in the pharmaceutical industry and the other working with humanitarian organisations. But as much as they enjoyed their high-flying careers, something was missing: time spent with their daughters, and a family legacy that they could pass on.

With that in mind, Ruth and Charles decided to change course. They quit their jobs and started looking for a winery in a region that may as well have been a world away from their former life: the south of France.

As Charles explains, “Our passion for wine and desire to invest in an ‘emerging’ wine-producing area, rather than an area that was already well-established, led us to the exciting and highly diverse French wine region of Langeudeoc-Roussillon.”

He continues, “The dream had always been to produce quality wine, and the property we found – Domaine Sainte Rose – provided us with the perfect raw materials.”

This beautiful property, nestled in a diverse region with stunning natural landscapes, was watched over by a statue of Sainte Rose of Viterbo, an Italian saint who stood up for her Catholic faith against the fury of the Holy Roman Emperor.

 It was a fitting symbol for Ruth and Charles, who came to Languedoc determined to challenge something of their own: the region’s unfair reputation for producing wines somehow judged inferior to those coming out of more established regions (especially those with big bucks to spend on marketing).

“The Languedoc had a reputation for making large volumes of low quality wine,” Ruth says, “so we wanted to help change this reputation by reducing yields and investing in both the vineyard and the winery.”

Enchanted by the beauty of the Domaine and inspired by the story of Sainte Rose, Ruth and Charles moved to the south of France and got right to work.

All Change

When Ruth and Charles first moved to Languedoc, they didn’t find a top-of-the-line winery waiting for them. But after a decade and a half of hard work, they’ve brought their beautiful, historic estate into the 21st century.

As Charles says, “In the 15 years that we’ve been here, we’ve completely redesigned the winery.”

These days, the Domaine is a state-of-the-art winery and vineyard, employing sustainable viticulture techniques and exporting wines around the world.

Ruth and Charles had one clear goal when they were undertaking all of this work. As Ruth explains, “Our goal was produce authentic, affordable, hand-crafted wines of distinction. To our immense satisfaction, our wine has so far been universally well received by both the wine trade and consumers all over the world.”

But Ruth, Charles and their winemaking team weren’t content to sit on their laurels. So they turned to the next challenge: the wine in your July Bubble Box.

The Essential Chardonnay

For many years, Ruth and Charles had dreamed of making a zero-dosage wine.

Ruth says, “As winemakers, we feel this style is the purest and truest expression of our fruit.”

Most wines made using the Méthode Traditionelle are topped up with a dosage, or sweet wine liqueur, after they undergo their second fermentation in the bottle and have been riddled and disgorged. This makes the wine sweet and can balance the flavours, but it can also dilute the expression of the terroir and the grapes used.

To make a zero-dosage wine, Ruth, Charles and their winemaker had to think carefully about how to tweak their production process. Grown in 2014, the Chardonnay buds that would go into this wine burst early – and had to be harvested early, too.

Charles says, “Picking the Chardonnay super early ensures the zingy acidity necessary to produce quality sparkling in our hot, dry, southern French climate.”

The grapes were hand-picked and pressed in bunches, with the juice then carefully fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine was then, unusually, left to age for three months in oak barrels before being transferred to the bottle for secondary fermentation, spending 24 months aging ‘on the lees’, or in the presence of yeast, before being disgorged. It arrives with you ready to drink and enjoy.

“This is the top of our Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wine range,” Ruth says, “with no expense spared in the winemaking.”

She continues, “Ours has always been a new world winemaking project situated in the old world. This isn’t a typical Languedoc wine, but shows how successfully this style of wine can be produced in our sunny, southern French climate with a meticulous viticulture and winemaking approach.”

Elegant and deliciously acidic, this dry wine is wonderful with Coquille Saint Jacques Mornay, a wonderfully indulgent dish of scallops served in the shell with béchamel and cheese.

“Otherwise,” Charles laughs, “it works wonderfully with fish and chips!”

Fish and chips by the seaside, with a glass of this wonderful sparkling wine? It doesn’t get better than that!

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