Back to the (delicious) future
Château Font du Broc is paradoxical: its intriguing wines and stunning architecture are deeply rooted in Provençal tradition, yet both are of relatively recent vintage. In a single generation one man’s vision has created something that feels like a millennium in the making.
TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CHÂTEAU FONT DU BROC
The best place to evaluate the hopes and ambitions of a winery is in its cellars. A walk around Château Font du Broc’s vaulted cave tells a story. Sylvain Massa, the man behind the arrival of Château Font du Broc on the wine scene, is no dabbling hobbyist. The vast space was built with ancient stones in a style reminiscent of the Cistercian monasteries, that will still stand when most of this century’s monuments have tumbled. It’s a legacy, not a project.
The vineyard’s owner, who also makes his home at the property, summarises his philosophy about the wine: “May my vines be raised with endless care, my wine looked after with infinite attention. Never should there be any resort to short-cuts or shady strategies on the road to quality. That’s my commitment.”
Short history, long view
Massa bought the land in the hills, a 25minute drive from the coast, in 1979. It was originally dedicated to his primary passion, a stud farm raising horses that featured in competitions around the world, including the Olympics. But when a fire ravaged the region in 1988 he saw the opportunity to create something new out of the ashes: a vineyard in true Provençal style.
“The vines we grow were chosen as being typical of the region, and thus suited to the ‘terroir’ here and our excellent climate,” says Matthias Buissé, the château’s commercial manager: “And as is frequently the case in this area we grow quite a range of grapes to produce red, white and rosé wines. Our whites use only Rolle grapes, a local favourite that makes a wonderfully refreshing wine.”
In 2013 the property achieved organic certification, which was no easy task. “We decided this was the right option for several reasons,” explains Buissé: “It respects the land of course, and it has to be said that there’s great interest in organic wines from connoisseurs. But it also fits what we want to do in a wider way: Monsieur Massa is passionate about the natural world, so we have ponds and olive groves and gardens, not just endless vines here.
He continues: “Adapting to organic winemaking has also brought the taste of the wines nearer now to the traditional styles of the area, with the negligible use of sulphites for example, allowing the fruity flavours of our reds to come through better; and the way the vines are tended is in part a return to the methods of several generations ago. The wines are refined in style, with very marked varietal characteristics.”
A warm and civilised welcome
Above the cellars and their huge oak barrels stands the château, its pink-tiled roof emblematic of the region, the honeyed-stone walls as warm as a June day here. It belongs to the country. Accordingly the whole domaine feels at ease and welcoming, characteristics not arrived at accidentally, but certainly enjoyed by the wedding parties and business gatherings hosted now at the château.
“Everything has been built using the right materials, the best materials, old stone, weathered beams, terracotta tiles that fit the region and the terroir, just like our wines,” says Buissé. “We decided to incorporate into the plans created with our architects the idea that the space could be used for receptions and meetings, so we can for example accommodate up to 450 people for a meal in the covered space that is at other times the covered manège. Additionally there’s a room that takes 200 people, ideal for weddings, with fine French gardens in front. We work with about ten traiteurs so couples marrying have a choice of top-quality suppliers in tune with the area and with whom we’ve built up good working relationships.”
Location, location, location
With St Tropez and Sainte-Maxime half/an-hour’s drive away and beautiful historic villages far closer, the château’s location helps in attracting business meetings, but the prospect of sampling some Font du Broc wine may also exert a little influence: “Along with the meeting there will usually be a meal catered by one of the traiteurs we recommend, so it’s a social thing, not just business,” says Buissé. “Very often there’ll be a wine tasting arranged as part of the day too. You can see people who’ve been in tough talks visibly relax with a glass or two of our wines. For some reason it’s a particularly popular part of the experience!”