Sustainable winemaking by the sea
TEXT: LISA GERARD-SHARP | PHOTOS © CHÂTEAU LÉOUBE
Château Léoube is a beguiling coastal wine estate set between St-Tropez and Toulon, outside Bormes-les-Mimosas. It’s easy to be seduced by this stylish spot, a painterly patchwork of olive groves and vineyards, as peachy as its Provencal wines. This English-owned estate champions substance over style, with its organic, sustainable approach.
You might discover Château Léoube by chance on your way to Saint-Tropez. As the largest private estate in coastal Provence, it’s an escape from the Riviera’s seaside sprawl. From a hilltop crowned by a chapel are tumbling vistas of olive groves, vineyards, parasol pines and the sparkling sea. It’s a protected site overlooking the Iles d’Or islands and stretches to the rocky shoreline and white-sand beaches. This is how the Riviera used to look before the builders moved in.
Provence’s planet organic?
“The estate was reborn after an English family fell in love with this pocket of Provence, with its magical coastal setting, chateau and wine estate,” explains director, Jean Dubille. The Bamfords are behind the Daylesford Organic brand and brought these eco-friendly values to France. Sustainability is second nature to a family who first pioneered organic farming over 40 years ago. As Dubille says: “For the owners, organic means more than a state of mind – it’s a way of life.”
After falling for this 1,400 acre Provencal estate, the family replanted the vineyards and olive groves in exemplary fashion. Lady Bamford’s mantra, `local, seasonal and sustainable’, is reflected in the Château’s organic and biodynamic approach. All grapes and olives are harvested by hand, with the wine-growers mindful of the seasonal and lunar cycles. Léoube fully understands biodiversity, from vineyards to vegetable gardens and 56 acres of olive groves, which produce distinctive oils made from Provencal or Italian olive varieties.
La vie en rosé
Life in Léoube’s 168 acre vineyards is decidedly rosy. “Provence has been the land of rosé since Roman times,” says Dubille. The vineyards lie on the coastal fringe of the protected site of Cape Bénat and benefit from sunny days and cool, breezy evenings. “The marine climate means that we’re spared such issues as mildew, that might affect inland estates,” continues Dubille. Léoube’s award-winning wines are mostly Côtes de Provence, with 75 per cent of production rosé. Blush-pink rosé is a summer staple in the South of France, but abroad, it is increasingly thought of as an all-occasion wine. Even so, these top-tier rosés reinterpret our idea of rosé wine.
The estate benefits from a state-of-the-art winery and the expertise of Romain Ott, a scion of a legendary wine dynasty. Yet Léoube wines show a distinctiveness all of their own. Léoube-style rosé tends to be pale, crisp, dry, minerally, peachy and citrussy. As a fan of Super Tuscan wines, Lord Bamford also charged the estate to come up with a full-bodied red, the prestigious Le Collector.
An arty boutique sells both estate wines and Lady Bamford’s body products and stylish clothes. Pick out sportswear for the Monday beach yoga session or head off with farm-shop goodies, such as fig jam and black-olive tapenade, handmade pottery or straw baskets. You’ll probably also come away with some bottled sunshine: “Love by Leoube is our latest rosé, popular for its citrussy and peachy notes,” adds Dubille.
Léoube as a way of life
In summer, life is literally a beach at Château Léoube, with a nod to the St Tropez set. Wine-tastings or yoga sessions are followed by lunch in the beach café where you can sit under parasols or umbrella pines at the chic beach shack facing the island of Porquerolles.
Set on the Plage du Pellegrin, the revamped Café de Léoube serves up organic salads, savoury tarts, sandwiches and fruit pastries. Sip Chateau Leoube Rosé, so fresh you can taste the maritime breezes along with citrussy and peachy notes. Swim or snooze at Plage de Léoube beach, only accessible by boat or on foot.
The café borders a coastal path which winds past craggy rocks and sandy bays to a medieval fortress. Fort de Brégançon, standing sentinel over the bay, is the summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic. President Macron’s wife has been spotted strolling along the shore, and there are high hopes that the President himself might drop by for a leisurely summer lunch.
The British market is the biggest for the estate’s wines, followed by North America, so the owners must be doing something right. As Lord Bamford says: “Our vision was always to create wines with character, which reflect their regional roots while respecting nature. It’s been a long, rewarding journey, but we’re now proud to share our wines with you.” Jean Dubille agrees, seeing this Anglo-French adventure as a marriage made in heaven, meaning Provence: “Chateau Léoube is everything that Provence is about: fine wines, ‘savoir-faire’, seductive scenery and a summery lifestyle.”
Romain Ott with (estate manager) Jean Dubille, who went to wine school in Bordeaux and revamped the French Parliament’s wine