SPECIAL EVENT 4/1/2022 - Vintner Visit with Thomas Bertrand from Domaine Rouge-Bleu!

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  • By Mark Meissner
SPECIAL EVENT 4/1/2022 - Vintner Visit with Thomas Bertrand from Domaine Rouge-Bleu!

Join us for a very special in-store tasting with vigneron THOMAS BERTRAND, who will be in the tasting room this Friday evening from 6-7:30pm for a special tasting of four wines from his estate in the Southern Rhône Valley.
About 8 years ago, Domaine Rouge-Bleu really came into the southern Rhône Valley wine scene. It's a remarkable journey of a frenchman and Aussie who followed their dream of owning a wine label - find the full story below. Caroline Jones and Thomas Bertrand landed their dream, and with now 15 vintages under their belts, a lot has happened in the last decade... with Bertrand and Jones juggling the demands of two little girls, running their estate's B&B, and operating a biodynamic vineyard. Their focus for Domaine Rouge-Bleu remains true to the vineyard, as they replant vineyards, revitalize rootstock and produce lovely small production wines (red, white and rosé) with varietals from the Rhône Valley and Provence. This is a great story of passion, drive and love for wine.
So join us this Friday, as we welcome Thomas Bertrand, vineyard owner and co-winemaker from the Vaucluse village of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. I wish Caroline could also have joined us!
And it's no fool's day joke, the first 30 folks to sign up, enjoy the tasting at no cost! You must sign up online HERE and be present before 6:45pm.
The tasting commences at 6pm and concludes at 7:30pm. Thomas Bertrand will be in the tasting room with four of their delightful wines for sipping. Bring your wine passion, your questions and your palates this Friday evening for a special pop-up, meet-greet and sip with Thomas.
More info on Thomas and his wife Caroline below. See you Friday!
And if you're slow to signup for the gratis tickets, after the first 30 folks, we'll be offering a limited number of additional tickets at an attractive $20/pp!
Get your weekend rollin' this Friday evening with ROUGE-BLEU.
Be well, drink well and GO HEELS.
THOMAS BERTRAND, Live in Person from France's Rhône Valley
Friday April 1st @ 6:00pm (US Eastern)
Join us from 6-7:30pm for the tasting. First 30 tickets are gratis!
From the Vosges mountains in the east of France, Thomas spent 12 years in the UK working exclusively in the wine trade. After working for one of the major wine estates in Chateauneuf-du-Pape as head of Domestic Sales and Oeno-tourism, he was able, since 2015, to devote himself fully to Domaine Rouge-Bleu.
Having sold and tasted many wines from around the world, Thomas decided it was time to have a go at making wine. A real wish to return to the rural lifestyle of his childhood, and his wife Caroline’s shared interest in French living, were the catalysts for moving back to France and starting the search for their dream vineyard.
“Passionate about wine, I have been surrounded by it all of my adult life. First at work and now on the domaine where I spend my time between managing the vineyard and representing the Domaine worldwide. A lover of wines from all horizons I am, like Caroline, a natural Grenache lover. Becoming a vigneron is a life changing experience and an eveyday learning curve which I hope to be sharing with you all soon, whether you are visiting us or we are coming to you!”
The great feature of their vineyards is the age of the vines which, coupled with the terroir, hold the potential to create wines of superb quality.
In order to magnify this potential, Thomas and Caroline work to develop the deep roots of their vines which allows them to reach water and mineral complexity in the soil - which is ultimately what is transmitted to the grapes.
They are guided by the principles of biodynamics that promote soil microbial life through banishing pesticides, herbicides and systemic products. Only copper and sulfur are used along with natural preparations in the vineyards.
Thomas believes that when the vine is more deeply rooted, it is able to defend itself against disease and has less need for human intervention. They also believe in the good effects of wild yeasts brought by insects. It is these yeasts, native to the microenvironment, that will ferment the wines, further contributing to the expression of terroir!
Grenache reigns here, followed by the Carignan grape variety that has the ability to produce higher acidity and complex flavors when vigor is controlled. A bit of Syrah, and a zest of Mourvedre and a dash of Roussanne (co-planted with their precious 80-year old Grenache) complete the family.
In the cellar, Thomas and Carolina strive to continue this principle of life. Using traditional porous concrete tanks and 3-4 year old barrels - permitting the wine to breathe without being overwhelmed by oak. They vinify without destemming, believing that mature stems bring many natural components to wine, particularly acidity which, in the south of France, is always the difference between a good and exceptional wine.
I'm very pleased to host Thomas Bertrand this Friday evening, and we'll be pouring FOUR brilliant wines with Thomas in the house! Here's the lineup:
1) Domaine Rouge Bleu 'Dentille Blanc'
(white rhône varietal blend) IGP Mediterranée 2020
2) Domaine Rouge Bleu 'Dentille Rouge'
(carignan/grenache blend) IGP Mediterranée 2018
3) Domaine Rouge Bleu 'Mistral Rouge'
(grenache/syrah/mourvedre blend) St. Cecile, Côtes du Rhône Village 2017
4) Domaine Rouge Bleu 'Lunatique'
(100% grenache) VDP Rhône Valley 2017
Prices range from $20 to $44 retail, with special pricing at the tasting!
Tickets are available for the IN-STORE tasting here.
There are 30 GRATIS tickets available. First come, first served. THANK YOU!
Still intrigued with the back story?
Previously published in Global Living Magazine:
“A Grape Filled Trail Leads to Domaine Rouge-Bleu”
Even for a princess-bride, dreaming up this fairy tale girl-meets-boy encounter could be a stretch. Two co-workers met for the first time as their Eurostar train rocketed through the French countryside on the rail tracks from London to Paris. Their weekend in France’s Champagne region, as guests of Krug and Dom Pérignon, was the beginning of a long-distance romance.
Caroline Jones, who hails from Western Australia, is now married to French native Thomas Bertrand the same fellow who caught her eye on that fast-moving train. In what, some might consider a risky roll of the dice they recently purchased a vineyard in France’s southern Rhone region. In reality, this acquisition may seem a little less reckless once you understand that Caroline and Thomas both have rich backgrounds in the wine industry.
At twenty-four years old, Caroline first experienced juice-stained-hands while assisting in the grape harvest in France. She worked her way from the vine fields into more complex vineyard roles from cellar hand to the vintage winemaker. Through her career, Caroline has been able to blend her early exposure to Australia’s progressive winemaking methodologies with the time-honoured approach rooted on French soil.
New Owners Domaine Rouge-Bleu
Thomas and Caroline now own and operate Domaine Rouge-Bleu in Provence located not too distant from the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape cellars. I was curious why they would even consider buying a vineyard that produces a wine called Lunatique. Caroline is clear in her response.
“I think it’s a great name for a wine, with a touch of humour. It refers both to the lunar cycle with which we farm, following the principles of biodynamics and also to what was a slightly mad idea to make the wine in the first place. Lunatique is a special parcel of 100-year-old Grenache vines located at the far end of our Indication Géographique Protégée (IPG) land, on an ancient riverbed – entirely made up of large, smooth stones like those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape but white in colour. The grapes from these vines initially went into our Dentelle IGP range until it was realized just how special they are, and thus Lunatique was born!”
From my exchange with Caroline, it is obvious that this couple is deeply familiar with their profession from the green shoots on the vine stocks in the spring to the corked and labelled wine bottle, and every step in between. They have also chosen their production area with careful attention to detail. Caroline spent many years working harvests in different grape growing regions around France, from Bordeaux to Banyuls and Gigondas, but she fell for the charms of Provence. She was seized by the same spell that captures so many tourists a year, the fabulous climate, outstanding food and refreshing wines.
Buying a Côtes du Rhône Vineyard
Their purchase of Domaine Rouge-Bleu was well researched; Caroline had personally handled the sweet fruit as one of the team members for the 2010 harvest at the vineyard. A little like their fairy tale first encounter, this vineyard has just the right balance of criteria to fulfill this couples’ dream of making wine in France. The property is of moderate size at nine hectares and the old vines have been tended following a biodynamic philosophy. In addition, few could argue with their choice of a geographic location near the shores of the Mediterranean and kissed by rays of the bright Provencal sun.
Thomas and Caroline’s story reads a bit like a whimsical novel until you consider the reality of running a small, weather-dependant, agricultural business, in a foreign language. Undeterred, they are clear that their philosophy is to work in harmony with nature to produce wines indicative of their terrain. Domaine Rouge-Bleu follows a biodynamic methodology, where they use low sulphur doses in the final wines, well below those permissible by biodynamic law. Their goal is ultimately to make wines that they enjoy drinking themselves.
The couple bought the existing vineyard from a winemaker-owner who had carefully nurtured the old vines of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan to produce fruit of exceptional concentration and depth of flavour, although limited in yield, at 25,000 bottles per year. Their vision is to make incremental improvements to the vineyard, winery and wines by drawing from their mutual industry experience and years between the vines. In the future, they hope to grow their existing export markets – United Kingdom, Australia and the United States – as well as venturing into new territories such as Sweden and Canada.
One might think that a physically demanding business venture in a new country would be enough for a young couple to tackle. Not this twosome. They decided to add a three-bedroom bed and breakfast (B&B) into the mix. This is a place where recently renovated, spacious rooms are named after grape varieties; Grenache, Syrah and Roussanne and offer-up views of the vineyard directly from your comfy bedside. Caroline and Thomas now welcome guests all-year-round into their warm Provencal-style farmhouse where a traditional French continental breakfast might just be served under the Mulberry tree – weather permitting.
This pair is fortunate to be able to follow their passion, something many of us never quite sort out. However, I was curious about Caroline’s experience as an expat so many miles and time zones away from her native Australia. Caroline studied French in school and the deep history of Europe intrigued her. However, she was twenty-one before she first stepped foot on the European continent. Hooked by the diverse landscape of France from coastlines to mountain ranges, from plentiful farmland to enchanting cities. She was spellbound by the accessibility of fresh seasonal produce available from only a few kilometres away and hooked by the hundreds of artisan cheeses and buttery croissants.
Expat in Provence
Caroline says she probably will always consider herself an expat and a proud Australian. Despite having studied French in school, speaking like a local is something Caroline recognizes she may never fully achieve. Although, this clearly marks her as not “from here” she likes the fact that she is just a little different.
Being married to a Frenchman has helped ease some of the archetypal frustrations with settling in a new homeland. Even mountains of French paperwork, a country that still loves its forms in triplicate, and countless hours spent on the telephone for routine domestic and business matters have not sent Caroline running back to Australia. Her recommendation for anyone relocating to a new country is to find a native speaker or agency willing to assist with navigating the daunting list of local medical professionals, bureaucratic requirements and potential frustrations with household infrastructure and utilities.
During the sometimes nippy, damp Provencal winter months, Caroline admits that she misses friends and family, especially when she imagines that they might be enjoying lazy days at the beach and smoky barbeques. From time-to-time sensory induced recollections of gum-tree-filtered light, aqua waters of Olympic-sized swimming pools and cravings for vegemite draw her thoughts back to her homeland.
According to Caroline, expat life is not for everyone. You need to be ready for a challenge and prepared for the unexpected to arrive, in a new place. She recommends taking the mental approach that you are embarking on a unique learning experience complete with potentially astonishing outcomes. After all, who wouldn’t dream of living amongst sun-ripened grapes in a vineyard in the south of France?