Commanderie de Peyrassol
The name of the estate is the first indication of its long, illustrious past. Located in the heart of Provence, near routes traveled by Crusaders in the early Middle Ages, the Commanderie de Peyrassol was founded by the Knights of Templar who were dedicated to protecting the Crusaders en route to, and in, the Holy Land. The first recorded harvest took place in 1256 and winemaking has continued uninterrupted throughout the centuries. When the Templars were brought down in 1311 by the King of France, who was nervous of their power and jealous of their wealth, the Knights of Malta became the fortunate owners of the Commanderie. They remained in control, flawlessly maintaining the vineyards until the French Revolution, when it was taken over by the State.
The Rigord family purchased the estate in 1870; but, it was not until 1977 when Francoise Rigord, wife of Yves, decided to bottle and market the wines of the estate. Madame Rigord abandoned her successful career in public relations to study oenology and take on the responsibility of making all of Commanderie de Peyrassol's wines. The first vintage bottled for sale to the public was1981. It was then, at the very outset of this commercial venture, that we met Francoise and we have worked in happy harmony together since that time.
Francoise continued to produce ground-breaking wines for the next two decades, elevating the reputation of the Cotes de Provence in all three colors: white, red and rosé. Her book, “La Dame de Peyrassol”, relating her experiences as one of the rare women in the forefront of the wine trade has received enthusiastic praise.
In 2001, the Rigord family sold the property to Philippe Austruy who has aggressively invested in this exceptional property, modernizing the cellars and expanding the holdings. His nephew, Alban Cacaret, is responsible for the daily operations of the domaine.
The “Commanderie”, now known as Chateau Peyrassol, is located in the hills of the "arriére pays", or backcountry, of the Var, north of St. Tropez and Hyères between the villages of Le Luc and Flassans-sur-Issole. The estate controls 850 hectares and is surrounded by 165 hectares of Mediterranean forest. Eighty (80) hectares are planted to vineyards which are cultivated on dry, rocky clay and limestone based soil. When Francoise Rigord took over, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon were added to the Grenache and Cinsault already grown at the estate. The Rolle (a/k/a Vermentino) and Ugni Blanc are the principal white grape varieties, supplemented by Semillon and Clairette. Peyrassol is rigorously maintained pursuant to organic principles in full respect of the surrounding environment and the delicate balance of the local Mediterranean ecosystem. No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or fungicides are used in the vineyards. Organic foliar sprays are used to help prevent chlorosis (nutrient deficiencies) and sheep manure is the only fertilizer used after the planting. The age of the vines, the rocky terrain, and the hot, dry climate establish conditions that severely restrict yields. As a consequence, harvest levels average between 25 and 40 hectoliters per hectare depending on the vineyard and grape variety.
Although there are many different cuvées produced currently at Peyrassol, we concentrate on several “core” bottlings that, for us, represent the terroir of this zone in the Var in its truest form.
“La Croix Rouge de Peyrassol” Vin de Pays de la Porte de la Mediterannée:
This cuvée is crafted specifically for presentation in the United States and is the result of a close collaboration between RWM and the team at Peyrassol (Alban Cacaret, Wladimir Holobinka [vineyard manager], Pierre Guérin [consulting oenologue] and Francoise Rigord [who maintains an active interest in the estate]). The blend varies depending on the particular conditions of the vintage but normally is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in varying proportions. It highlights the fresh wild berry fruits of the region married to a firm minerality that provides structure and discipline to the wine. Approximately 12,000 bottles per year are bottled for the US market.
Cotes de Provence Rosé “Commanderie de Peyrassol”:
For us, this wine is the classic representation of the pink-tinted wines of this region and is the workhorse wine of the estate. It carries a pale rose color, a lovely fruit blossom nose and finishes crisply dry with a stony touch that gives it class and elegance. The grape blend is usually Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah in varying percentages. The average age of the vines is 25 years or more. The Rosés of Peyrassol are made from the direct press method. The grapes undergo cold maceration before being pressed. This gives them their beautiful watermelon pink color. The fermentation takes place under controlled temperatures and is exceptionally long, resulting in rosés that are both lively, fresh and full-bodied. As production has increased at Peyrassol with the additional plantings, we too have increased our purchases. Our annual allotment is now between 40,000 to 50,000 bottles.
Cotes de Provence Rosé “Chateau Peyrassol”:
This is the elite cuvée of the estate relying as it does on grapes harvested from the oldest vines of the domaine (35 years and older). Principally composed of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, the “Chateau” bottling also sees the addition, from time-to-time of Tibouren, the ancient and regal Provencale grape. This Rosé is produced via the “direct press” method and has a long cuvaison designed to produce a wine of character and concentration. Vinified in stainless steel and bottled in late winter – early spring, production is quite limited. Our allocation for the USA averages 4,000 bottles per annum.
Cotes de Provence Blanc “Chateau Peyrassol”:
This white is the standard-bearer of the domaine and in its elegance and length is virtually outside of its category. It is a blend of Rolle (Vermentino) and Semillon with the Rolle being the dominant factor (90%). After the manual harvest, the grapes are fermented in barrique and then aged for four to six additional months in barrel (principally new) before the assemblage is done and the wine is finished in stainless steel cuve before bottling. Again, a cuvée of limited production, we import approximately 1200 bottles per annum.
Cotes de Provence Rouge “Chateau Peyrassol”:
The “prestige” cuvée in red, this wine is a blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon with some Syrah in the mix. Harvested from the oldest vines on the estate (35 years average age) and from several prime parcels, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and is then aged in barrel (a mix of foudres and barriques) for a period of twenty-four to thirty months before bottling. A small percentage of new oak is used. A powerful expression of the garrigue of Provence, this is a sturdy wine with compelling aromatics. We import 1200 bottles per annum for the USA.