Sacha Lichine, born in Bordeaux and educated in America, has worked in every imaginable facet of wine, including pruning the vines; sales; wine tour guide; sommelier, buyer; broker; distributor; negociant; and, winery owner. To all that, we can add “visionary”
Chateau d’Esclans is situated in the commune of La Motte.
About 25 km from my house in the Var, it takes around 30 minutes to get there driving in an easterly direction.
As I approach the final stretch to the estate, the vineyards are to the left. The highest part, where the vines lean into the forest, is the most treasured plot.
Clos d’Esclans is home to some of the oldest vines in France.
The Grenache Noir were already flourishing here when World World II ended in 1945*.
Some were merely infants, others already teenagers, with a few young adults among the rows. They basked in the Provencal sun then as they do now. Today, these ancients look down to the winery where their grapes go on to produce the top wine – Garrus – bearing the label of the world’s most famous rosé, Chateau d’Esclans.
(*The Rhone American Cemetery & Memorial is in nearby Draguignan. Eight hundred and fifty fallen American soldiers are buried there – most from the US Seventh Army – who lost their lives in the liberation of southern France in August 1944. Catch a glimpse of the cemetery in this 2-minute video at www.abmc.gov/Rhone).
The winemaking team today is led by Bordelais Bertrand Leon (left) and – since the beginning from 2006 – Chateau d’Esclan Cellarmaster Jean-Claude Neu (right)
Clos d’Esclans, on the top of the estate, has the oldest vines of Grenache Noir ranging from 80 to 100 years
It was only 16 years ago in 2006 when Sacha Lichine acquired Chateau d’Esclans. No one then had heard of it except for some people who lived in and around La Motte. Today, millions of wine lovers and legions of fans around the world shout out Whispering Angel as the planet’s most beloved rosé. Rock Angel is its equally famous sibling.
Sacha Lichine’s remarkable achievement is worthy of an MBA course all to itself. After all, the world’s greatest wines take years, decades, even centuries to be where and what they are today. To create, in such a short time, the most renowned wine in its category and – on top of that – to lift the entire rosé category to where it is today defies belief, if not, imagination itself.
Lichine was born in Bordeaux and educated in America. In his lifetime, he has worked in every imaginable facet of wine, including pruning the vines; sales; wine tour guide; sommelier, buyer; broker; distributor; negociant; and, winery owner. To all that, we can add “visionary”.
Generous as he is, Sacha Lichine is only too happy to also give credit to his Founding Consultant Oenologist Patrick Leon (1943 – 2018) for contributing to the success of Chateau d’Esclans.
Leon had worked for his father Alexis Lichine (1913 – 1989) and, for nearly two decades, was Chief Winemaker at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, being also responsible for the group’s other estates and other wines until his retirement in 2004.
Bertrand Leon was working alongside his father at Chateau d’Esclans during his lifetime. Today, he continues to commute regularly between Bordeaux and La Motte. Bertrand Leon is also responsible for his family estate Chateau Les Trois Croix in Fronsac where he also worked with his father for 24 vintages.
Bertrand Leon continues the work of his late father Patrick Leon who designed the temperature-controlled barrels
In my half dozen visits to Chateau d’Esclans, I have seen the winery and cellar grow and expand. A visitors’ centre was added several years ago. Luxury giant LVMH has become majority owner at 51%.
What has not changed is the winemaking. The team is led by Bertrand Leon and – since the beginning from 2006 – Chateau d’Esclan Cellarmaster Jean-Claude Neu.
Even more important is the enthusiasm, drive, and passion of Founder Sacha Lichine who continues to inspire D’Esclans and wine lovers and other producers of rosé in equal magnitude.
Participants of our Great Truffle Tour will enjoy lunch at Chateau d’Esclans on Wednesday 4 May 2022. Interested readers please click https://cpt.design/event/the-great-truffle-tour-2022/ From left, CH’NG Poh Tiong, Bertrand Leon, and Thomas Schreckinger
Situated in La Motte in the Var (an hour north-east of Nice), Chateau d’Esclans is a magnet for tourists within and beyond France
The famous Whispering Angels in the private chapel of Chateau d’Esclans
Chateau d’Esclans comprises a range of rosé in an ascending order by price and quality. I hesitated to say “quality” because while the pricier wines do escalate in quality, fruit and intensity, they also become increasingly more structured. That being so, some of us may actually prefer a D’Esclans rosé of a more humble “quality”. My regular favourite is Chateau d’Esclans, which lies below Les Clans and Garrus. That said, my most recent visit on 17 January 2022, Garrus was brimming with fruit even as it was strutting its structure.
Bertrand Leon and CH’NG Poh Tiong photographed by Thomas Schreckinger on 17 January 2022
The Pale 2021
Delicate floral, peach, citrus fruit. Fresh, fruity and light. Underscrewcap.
Whispering Angel 2021
The same palate profile as The Pale but with more pristine fruit and greater acidity.
Rock Angel 2020
Citrus and red fruit abound. Equally as fresh as Whispering Angel but the acidity is rounder. More textural. Harvesting (as with the following wines) from sunrise to noon to capture and preserve freshness. Bunches are destemmed and the berries sorted optically. Comprising 70% of fruit grown on the estate, two-thirds fermented in stainless steel tank and the remaining one-third in 600-litre demi-muid barrels. A few barrels were new but most 1- and 2-year old. Rock Angel is considered a “Super Whispering Angel” or, if you prefer, Led Zeppelin with the volume turned up!!
Chateau d’Esclans 2020
More fruit-forward on the nose and palate, showing also citrus and red fruits but with greater intensity and liveliness. Longer on the finish too. The namesake of the estate is produced from vines grown entirely at Chateau d’Esclans. The blend is around 65% Grenache Noir, 30% Rolle (aka Vermentino in Italy), and the balance from Syrah. Half and half are fermented in stainless steel tanks and barrels.
Les Clans 2020
Fruity and notes of vanilla. The structure is much more dominant than the fruit. Drier and more austere on the finish than Chateau d’Esclans. Fruit and structure not yet completely melded at the moment.
Grapes from 80 to 100 year old vines of Clos d’Esclans go to produce Garrus. These are primarily Grenache Noir but also Vermentino or Rolle and a bit of Syrah. Ninety percent of free run juice and 10% from a light pressing. The alcoholic fermentation is in new and second year 600 litre demi-muids. The wine stays 10 months in barrel with batonnage twice a week. Fruit, freshness, elegance in seamless harmony. Poise and composure. Delicious now but with ageing potential into 2030. Savour in a wide Burgundy glass or generous Cognac balloon.