Four kilometres away from Aix-en-Provence, the region whose landscapes were made famous by Paul Cézanne’s masterpieces, Château Simone is enthroned between two peaks of the Sainte-Victoire mountains. The gardens blend in with the vines surrounding the house, with shades of green harmonising like watercolours on a canvas.
These Roman-aged vines are grown at an altitude of 200 metres in a spot surrounded by forests that protect them from the severity of the Provence sun, and here the soils are rich in scree derived from Langesse chalk. Heathy humidity is provided to the soil by the biodiverse surroundings. It was on this unique terroir that Jean Rougier’s wish to create an AOC came to light. He was a wine maker at Château Simone and related to the current owners, and he succeeded in achieving this status for the wines produced here under the name ‘Palette’ in 1948.
Château Simone takes its name from one of the previous owners, Madame de Simone. It then became the property of the monks of Grands Carmes d’Aix in the 16th century, a committed group who saw to the digging of the cellars, marking the first traces of the property’s viticulture that can be uncovered. The Rougier family have been the owners here since 1830, when Nicolas-Toussaint Rougier purchased the property and some hectares of land with exposure to the north. Albert Rougier then replanted the Clairette vines after the phylloxera disaster. Jean Rougier, the family’s 4th wine maker, recognised that there was something special about the domain, and this was when he set out to obtain the prestige of an AOC for his production. It was at this moment, when Château Simone was recognised under the Palette appellation, that its history as an important figure of Provence viticulture really took off, becoming one of the region’s legendary names.
Today, it is Jean-François Rougier who takes care of the domain, with an area that now spans around 23 hectares of Clairette, Grenache, Ugni and Muscat vines for the white wines, and Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault for the reds. The domain’s attachment to tradition means that there are also some slightly rarer, regional grapes planted here such as Manosquin and Castet. Some of the parcels here are as old as 125. In the spirit of inherited methods passed through generations, the work carried out in the vineyards and the winery follows that of the many predecessors. The wine is matured in the very cellars constructed by the monks. The domain makes us of organic and environmentally-friendly practices, without having sought specific certification for this. The vines are shaped and framed around stakes. No weed killers or chemicals are used on the soil. After harvesting by hand, the grapes are sorted for the first time before being sent to the winery in little loads of 40kg. A second sorting is undertaken before the treading process. Fermentation is carried out traditionally, meaning only with indigenous yeasts. The talents of the wine makers here have brought out the best in their wine, always recognised for their finesse, their excellence, and their superb cellaring potential.
What do the guides say?
The Guide Vert from the Revue du vin de France has given Château Simone 2 stars out of 3. “’La Simone’, as the Rougier family affectionately call it, is certainly the most famous cru in the eyes of those who like fine, Mediterranean whites. René and Jean-François Rougier cultivate this wine in a way that brings out incredible balance and fullness. One of the secrets to success lies in the slow pressing and the 20-month maturation period. Another Simone asset is the rosé, which is always beautifully coloured and intensely fruity. Its palate, greatly concentrated, demonstrates superb ageing potential. The red is close to reaching a standard that resembles that of the fine wine from the southern Rhône valley.”
Almost faultless according to Bettane+Desseauve, they give the domaine 4 out of 5 stars. “This is the most famous château in the Palette appellation, and this is why the Rougier family has kept a close eye on its style for nearly two centuries. The 25 hectares of vines are at an altitude of 200 metres, in a place where they are protected from the strength of both the sun and the wind. But the veritable treasure of the property can be found in its particularly old vines, cared for with utmost attention and with a pending organic certification since 2018. Their wine can often be underestimated in its youth. However, after a few years, the cuvées reveal all with admirable complexity and depth, including the rosés. It’s best, therefore, to keep the bottles in the cellar for a while, as much as this will displease the impatient…”
Cuvées from Château Simone available at iDealwine
Palette (white): Remarkably balanced, this lovely Bandol Blanc has a complex bouquet with floral and spicy aromas, as well as a superb freshness. Produced by one of the appellation’s best domains, this is a star cuvée!
Palette (red): Noble in character, this structured and rich wine has great ageing potential. It stands out for its ruby colour and subtle but complex aromas.
Palette (rosé): A rosé famous for its deep colour, full-body, and the sophistication of its fruit thanks to it maturation in oak and on fine lees. A complex blend of regional grape varieties grown on slopes of chalk scree, it is the result of traditional but sustainable growing.