Imagine the heat of the sun and sound of the nearby shore at this Provencal vineyard. Both pioneering and historic, this estate has managed to keep its individual identity and unique character generation after generation, exemplified by the use of the Tibouren grape.
Located in La Pradet in the Provence region, between Toulon and Hyères, the domain features a beautiful 17th century manor house with “rustic” charm. Overlooking Toulon harbour, the property’s 24 hectares of vines live in tranquil paradise.
The name Clos Cibonne comes from its original owner, Jean Baptiste de Cibon, captain of the Royal Navy for Louis XVI in pre-revolutionary France. Later, the estate was sold on to the ancestors of the Roux family (the current owners), who were responsible for regenerating the very old Tibouren grape variety which slowly disappearing from the region. The land was originally for mixed-use – flowers, citrus and fruit were grown as well as vines. In 1935, André Roux restructured to focus solely on winegrowing. When André passed away in 1989, his daughter Jacqueline followed in his footsteps and continued the family business with her husband, Emile Mourchou who were committed to modernising the facilities and added a new cellar. In 2003, the torch was passed from Jacqueline and Émile to their daughter Brigitte and their son-in-law, Claude Deforges who have been at the helm ever since. The next generation has now arrived with Olivier working in the vineyard and on the winemaking side and his sister Caroline on the sales and marketing side.
As the land is on the the Mediterranean coast, the schist clay soil provides good drainage and the proximity to the sea means it is slightly cooler than inland vineyards in summer. It also gets its fair share of wind, which protects the vineyard from humidity and the diseases associated with it. Even though the property does not have official organic status, it is committed to sustainable winemaking and the soils are tilled (increasing biodiversity). The vines are harvested parcel by parcel at a good level of maturity and the subsequent selection process is very strict; the grapes are also destemmed.
In the cellar, the vinification takes places in stainless steel vats, on a cold setting to delay the start of the fermentation which lasts about ten days, pumped over twice a day before being aged in foudre casks.
Passionate about Tibouren
Do you know the Tibouren grape? It is a very old variety that originates in the Mediterranean coast, found in Lower Mesopotamia (current day Iraq) and in Rome where the Romans grew it on the banks of the Tiber. It does on the schist in the soil and on the sunny slopes of Clos Cibonne, where it is the dominant grape. It is supplemented by Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Tasting the wines from Clos Cibonne is an excellent introduction to this rare grape. Mostly unheard of except for by wine enthusiasts in the know, most Clos Cibonne wines are snapped up by international wine conoisseurs.
Provençal wines with character
This family-owned winery makes up one of the 18 Côtes de Provence Crus Classés: it produces red, rosé and white wines (around 100,000 bottles produced each year) and also buys grapes for the « Tentations » range. The traditional cuvées (red and rosé) are composed of 90% Tibouren and 10% grenache; these are the estate’s historic cuvées, aged in century-old casks for 12 to 18 months. Then come the special cuvées (cuvée des Vignettes), produced in very small quantities and the bottles are numbered. These wines come from the oldest vines on the estate, planted circa 1955 and aged in century-old casks. Lastly, the “Prestige” cuvées (cuvée Caroline and cuvée Olivier) are aged in 300L barrels.
The estate’s rosés (predominantly made up of Tibouren) are aged partly in old casks and partly in barrels (for vinification and aging). They are “gastronomic” rosés that can be enjoyed all year round with a meal and are not just for a hot summer’s day. Reds and whites from Provence are also considered safe bets.
Clos Cibonne wines for sale
Le Clos Cibonne, what the experts say
- RVF (1 star)
“The Tibouren grape had all but disappeared from Provence due to phylloxera (pest). In the 1930s, André Roux managed to plant a few vines which he developed in massal selections over the years. His approach is expressed in the singularity of the wines from this domain in Le Pradet, now in the capable hands of his granddaughter, Brigitte, her husband Claude Deforges and their son Olivier. The wines are dominated by the Tibouren grape, which makes a strong mark on them. We were blown away by the deep maritime and Provençal character of the rosés, the strong point of the estate. They are unlike anything else you see from the region, they haven’t followed local rules, and we really enjoyed that. Most of them come from old vines (Cuvée des Vignettes), aged for one year in casks or barrels (Caroline). Most of them come from old vines (Cuvée des Vignettes) and are aged for one year in casks or barrels (Caroline). Instead of a nice white Mediterranean wine, enjoy this with a meal. The reds are more traditional and unyielding, they haven’t quite reached the level of finesse of the rosés. We are awarding the domain their first star this year.”
- Bettane + Desseauve (3 stars)
Located a stone’s throw from the sea, this historic and very innovative domain was ceded in 1797 to the Roux family who have now managed it for more than 220 years. The 17 hectares of vines (currently in the throes of converting to organic viticulture) are surrounded by the manor house and walls on one side and the sea on the other, creating a very distinct microclimate. Tibouren is at the centre of it all, a magnificent but difficult indigenous grape variety and this terroir gives their wines a totally unique representation of the Provençal wine-growing landscape. The Cuvée Olivier is one of the most beautiful examples of red that we have ever encountered in the Côtes de Provence appellation. On its own, it shows the untapped potential of the Provence terroir to produce great reds. We would love to see more ruby-coloured wonders like this!