Provence wine tasting Domaine Milan Saint Remy de Provence
Prices from €14 to €100 a bottle
By the end of the wine tasting I wasn’t sure where the real world ended and the dream one started. Somewhere along the line the two must have become mixed up. How else could I explain the fact that I was sitting on a bar stool chatting away to Henri Milan as if he was an old friend from school, knocking back glasses of 100 euro a bottle wine like cheap plonk while discussing urinal iconoclasm.
Everything seemed suddenly surreal, the painted labels on all Henri’s wine bottles danced before my eyes: a starlit impressionist Med, a flighty butterfly, and a vibrant pink corkscrew which morphed in my head into a syringe. Henri’s wines are famously sulphur free and natural, and yet there I was hallucinating as if I’d pumped myself full of something illegal.
‘So he took a sledge hammer to the urinal, right in the middle of the MET in New York shattering it into hundreds of pieces,’ Henri was saying, ‘all because he disputed that a urinal could be a piece of art.’
My note taking at this stage was rather limited and so the name of the artist and which particular wine of Henri’s he designed the label for escapes me.
Another slug of 100 euro wine swished into my glass. Before me was a line of the 10 other bottles I’d already tasted. It was 11.30am and the stuff was so good that I wasn’t spitting. In fact nobody was spitting. Henri and I had been joined by the whole staff of the vineyard. They too greedily began quaffing 100 euro wine. Everybody was immensely jolly. There was the man who’d been ploughing the rows between the vines with his horse, who turned out to be one of the artists responsible for the wine labels, there was Sebastian Xavier, the caviste, and a couple of manual labourers. All of us drank like kings.
‘So this is the Provencal Petrus,’ said Henri introducing the 2011 vintage of his ‘Jardin’ cuve. I swirled and I inhaled. The wonderful scent of truffles shot straight up my nose. ‘100% Merlot, just like the Petrus, same blue clay soil, and same truffle nose….’
‘A little cheaper’ I ventured
‘We’re fixing that. We double the price every year, we’ll be at the same price as Petrus in a decade, and then we’ll see. But if you buy now the price is fixed for ever for you at 100 euros.’
At which point the real world came rushing-in. Or at least I thought it did. I was sane enough to realise that the scent of truffles in wine was for men richer than me, but then I said:
‘I’ll have some Sex instead’
‘Which devil would you like to dance with – French, Belgium or English?’ said Henri.
Before revealing my personal predilection I must break off and give some more information on the wines. My palate and memory were rather jaded by the end of the tasting so I’ll let the doyenne of British wine writing Jancis Robinson give you a snapshot of the quality offered by Henri:
The Grand Blanc ‘immediately commands attention with its pale gold sheen. An amazingly complex nose is on offer, spice notes come through first before the floral character – broom flowers, and even a hint of lavender as it opened up. The complexity continues on the palate, rich and expressive, retaining a fresh character and lovely creaminess. Very long indeed with a slightly bitter finish. This is a very ‘intellectual’ wine; it makes you think and yet it is wonderfully enjoyable too. A very long life ahead. Superb.’
Back to dancing with the devil. I chose to ride the English chariot. The domaine has wine trolleys or diablos as the French call them allocated to the different nationalities. The parsimonious French have the smallest one, the English the middle size, and the glugging Belge the biggest. The sex I chose was actually the S&X cuvee. A 100% Grenache wine created by caviste Sebastian Xavier, hence the misunderstanding, deliberately promoted by the obscure lettering and phallic corskscrew on the label. Together we loaded the cases of S&X onto the English devil which was when I noticed the Latin motto on Henri’s wine boxes: ‘Unguibus et rostro fluctuat nec mergitur’ or ‘Hold your nerve and plunge into the liquid.’
An appropriate moto and warning for all who dare visit….
For more on Provence wine visit our Provence wine region page