A taste of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s feminine side


Photograph: Domaine St  Préfert

Photograph: Domaine St Préfert

Isabel Ferrando – who exudes a potent combination of elegance, charm and authority – is the women behind the magnificent wines of Domaine St Préfert. At our recent Rhône tasting, Isabel revealed her highlights of 2012 (it’s not all about the top end) and how she’s making wines to suit the more modern lifestyle.

This vintage, 2012, was wonderful for me – very well balanced with plenty of freshness, minerality and salinity. I love it, really love it. Quantity? Well, that’s the big problem (the only problem!): for the St Préfert estate we saw around half the usual quantity.

For white, my personal highlight is my special cuvée, Vieilles Vignes Clairette, which is only in magnum, and this year it is especially fantastic because of the fruit with its juiciness, freshness and its salinity. It’s romantic, very elegant with wonderful length. On the nose, it has aromas of orange peel, candid apple fruits and vanilla. If you have a good cellar, you could age it for around 20 years.

In red, I particularly like my classique, the first Châteauneuf I do, it’s a blend with Grenache (85 percent) and Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah – the level of this classic cuvee is fantastic: fresh, great length and with aromas of violets, and garden rose. It’s like a big pinot noir from Burgundy – lovely.

We use organic practices – why? Because I live in the middle of my vines and it is important for me not to degrade the nature around me. We only work the soil; we don’t use chemical products. For me, it is all about waiting for the perfect moment to pick – and not before – which is why I taste every morning in September. In 2012, we picked at the end of September and the beginning of October. The good moment for picking is very important.

In the cellar, our methods are both traditional and difficult: it’s more complicated to make wine well, but complicated is interesting.

The most important thing, to me, is to make the wine that I like. I was born in Provence, and I like wines which are sympathetic to traditional Mediterranean flavours. From candid fruits and liquorice to the aromas of coffee and black chocolate – I am looking for aromas in my wines which are reminiscent of these typical Southern French foods.

If not Rhône, then Burgundy – the great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are some of my favourite wines: it is very hard to do wines in Burgundy, the weather is poor – like in England – and so it is very difficult to make good wines. And yet the winemakers manage to obtain the best they can with pinot noir – the complexity is fantastic.

I am a woman – do I make feminine wines? Maybe. Like the food I cook, I want my wines to be easy to drink, fine and elegant. Because I am a modern woman, I think it’s important to find modern wines which are adapted to the way we live life. If, in the middle of your meal, you don’t feel like finishing the bottle there is a problem: too much concentration perhaps, or too many masculine flavours. I hope that the people who drink my wines will always want to finish the bottle…

For more on Isabel’s wines, go to our Rhône 2012 on bbr.com.