This week, iDealwine would like to introduce you to Henri Milan, a Provence wine maker and a rebel at heart.
The first thing that strikes you when visiting Domaine Milan is the colour pink – the signs are pink, the entrance is pink, the wine cases are pink, and even the winery has a rosy tint. This is Henri’s nod to the colour of the lees in his wine.
It was in 1956 that his father, Robert Milan, purchased this vineless property 2 kilometres from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This was an era when wine was easy money…
But it was only towards the end of the 1980s that the domain really took off, and for this reason: Robert wished to sell the vineyard, but Henri dissuaded him. At 24 years of age, he set out to take up the domain and produce fine, natural wine. From 1988, he started producing organically and abandoned all chemical products. Meeting Claude Bourguignon in 1996 allowed him to discover the potential of his terroir. At the beginning of the 2000s, he started sulphur-free vinifications. This was an avant-garde move at the time, heading far from the beaten track. Once labelled ‘Baux-de-Provence’, Henri Milan’s wines are now sold as ‘Vins de France’, since he wishes to avoid submitting to the standardisation of the INAO, to him an obsolete concept. And there is another domain close by that has also established itself in the world of fine wine, this being Trévallon.
We’re talking about a wine maker who embraces his freedom. He narrowly lost the local elections in Saint-Rémy, and continues to be engaged in the politics of the area…without proclaiming a particular political label, naturally. This pursuit takes up plenty of his time, and has led him to entrust the management of his domain to his team, a team that includes his children. His daughter Emmanuelle works as an oenologue, whilst his eldest son Théophile takes care of the commercial side of the business. However, Henri’s sage advice is never far away, especially during the harvest.
Sébastien Xavier, the winery manager, told us that the domain’s terroir is first and foremost fine land for white wine. Made up of blue marl on chalky stones, it also has a relatively fresh microclimate (particularly during the summer nights), thanks to its perfect placement at the foot of the Alpilles massif. All of the elements are there to obtain a fresh wine, far from the heaviness that can weigh on this region’s cuvées. The reds sometimes take a bit longer to perfect. The parcels of Clos Milan are more like those in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with its sandy and gravelly soils that bring more warmth and ageing potential.
The domain spans 15 hectares and has been certified organic since 2002. Influenced by his daughter Emmanuelle, Henri has been experimenting more recently with biodynamics, using certain preparations like horsetail and maintaining an ecosystem by keeping trees and animals nearby.
But the final challenge for the domain is sulphur-free production. Its Papillon cuvée expanded its audience, notably in Paris and fine restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen, where you will find wines from this domain.
The other cuvées still require the addition of sulphur, though always before bottling and never during vinification. The wine with the most sulphites is at 15-20mg/L, which is still very low in terms of the maximum authorised by the organic regulations.
Henri practices complantation: different grape varieties are planted in the same parcels, and are harvested then vinified together. Throughout the vineyard, there are a wide variety of grapes: Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and even Merlot for the reds. In the winery, there is no fining or filtering, and the majority of the barrels and containers are old. Generally, the grapes are harvested quite early, since Henri seeks freshness above all for his wines. The oldest vines on the domain are over forty years’ old, and each year between 60,000 and 70,000 bottles are produced.
Here is a selection of the cuvées by Henri Milan currently for sale:
Baux de Provence Clos Milan: This is a great, complex, rich red wine with an incredibly long finish: red and black fruits aromas and cocoa combined with lightly spicy notes.
Vin de France Papillon Sans Soufre: A zero-sulphite cuvée with intense fruit and impossible freshness.
Vin de France Cuvée Elliott: Elliott? This is the name of the most recent addition to the Milan family! A fruity and elegant wine, made to honour the new arrival.
Vin de France Le Grand Blanc: This southern wine is fruity and floral, retaining balance without being heavy, despite its richness.
Vin de France Haru: A lovely blend of white flowers and red fruits, the Haru rosé serenades the arrival of spring, as signified by its Japanese name.