Chateau Simian

Classic Rhône heritage embracing contemporary biodynamics

Quick Facts

Location: the town of Piolenc, Southern Rhone Valley, France

Owner & Winemaker: Jean-Pierre Serguier and his son Florian, Pierre Chaupin

Vineyard Area: 26 hectares (= 64 acres), estate-owned

Vineyard Management: certified organic (Ecocert), biodynamic (Demeter, both since 2011)

Soils: sandstone, clay, limestone, pebbles

Main Varieties: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Vermentino (aka Rolle).

Annual production (approx.): 130,000 bottles

Winemaking: Spontaneous fermentation in temperature-controlled concrete or stainless steel vats. Light filtration; fining for the whites and rosés.

 

Fun Facts

  • The Serguiers have been producing wines for five generations, beginning with a “rags-to-riches” fairytale-like story in 1920
  • The oldest vines in the estate were planted in 1880 and are still used in the estate’s top red wines
  • Despite its long history and emphasis on tradition, Jean-Pierre isn’t afraid of making changes when he sees that nature and the wines will benefit from it, hence the switch to organics and biodynamics in 2008.
  • The Châteauneuf-du-Pape region is almost as sunny as Los Angeles. It receives an average of almost three thousand hours of sun per growing season.
  • The name of the region means “pope’s new castle” and refers to a time when the seat of the Roman Catholic Church was in Avignon.

 

Jump to wines | Chateau Simian Website

 

The “birth” of Chateau Simian in the early 20th century sounds almost like a fairytale – the one where fate bestows fortune upon a common person in reward for their loyal services. This is exactly what happened to Marcelle Laudret, a young woman who had worked for years for Sophie Simian, the owner of a country house and several neighboring vineyards. When Madame Simian died in 1920 without any direct family to pass the property on to, her will designated Marcelle as the heir, and Marcelle’s descendants have owned the property ever since.

And not just owned: throughout the years, the size of the estate has increased through both purchases and marriages, as Marcelle’s daughter Madeleine married Yves Serguier, a grower from the nearby Chateauneuf du Pape, thus adding some respectably old vines to the portfolio. These Grenaches, which were planted in 1880, are still yielding some precious grapes used in the estate’s top red cuvée; and Madeleine’s and Yves’ son Jean-Pierre, born in 1957, is still leading the estate today.

The current 26 hectares are spread across highly diverse soils of 4 different areas – the family owns 7 and 5 hectares (respectively) in the classical Southern Rhone appellations Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône, 9 hectares surrounding the domain in Piolenc that are classified as Vin de Pays, and the newest addition is a 5-hectare plot in the Massif d’Uchaux that testifies to the Serguier’s dedication to old vines, even though it’s not the easiest path. “Since planting new vineyards is subsidized, you sometimes see beautiful old vines being replaced and biodiversity disappearing for the sake of money – and we couldn’t be more opposed to that,” the Serguier family explains what led them to their unusual move. In 2011, they sold some of their Côtes du Rhône vineyards, perfectly productive and easy to manage, and bought a plot of sixty-year-old vines surrounded by woods in the nearby Massif d’Uchaux. “Less-yielding and harder to work, this shift looks like an uneconomical decision. But only in the short term–we could taste the quality of old vines already during the first harvest. And preserving the cultural heritage of these old plants is priceless to us,” Jean-Perre smiles.

The Serguier approach wasn’t always this sustainable, though: over the hundred years of ownership, the family went through the oft-seen 20th century “agricultural progress” arc. “Like many winegrowers, the 1970s led us to intensive use of chemical fertilizers, weed killers, pesticides, mechanization, and productivism. It was in the 1990s that my parents realized that this wasn’t progress at all and started to understand the agronomic, ecological, and social imbalances we had to manage,” Florian Serguier, Jean-Pierre’s son born around that time, recalls. The vineyards have been grassed between the rows in order to develop a healthy soil life without disturbing the natural processes since 1994, and in 2008, things got even more serious as Jean-Pierre started practicing organics and biodynamics.

Three years later, in 2011, Chateau Simian’s first certified biodynamic vintages were born from vines newly managed by Florian, who finished his studies in the meantime. “Ever since, we’ve seen how an agricultural philosophy that respects the great laws of nature results in grapes of exceptional quality: thick skins rich in color and aromas, silky tannins, juicy and sweet pulp with very stable acidity,” Florian nods at the quality of material that he sends to Pierre Chaupin, his cellarmaster who arrived at the property around the same time as he did. But it’s not only about making some smooth, textured wines (however delicious they are); this approach also helps to vivify and regenerate the soil as a whole, and benefits not only the vines but all the plants that share their habitat, including the so-called “weeds”. “We basically learned that the only way to “command” nature is to obey, not oppose her,” Florian shrugs, leaving us with a laconically exact sum-up of the biodynamic philosophy – and his family’s history as well.

 

 Wines

 

Chateauneuf du Pape Le Traversier — Back to the top

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape region is the very first French appellation controlée wine (under the AOC system born in 1936). The area is famous for a wide range of varieties–18 in total permitted by the rules–that came from careful selection by generations of winemakers, whose priority was wine quality. Chateau Simian grows all 18 varieties allowed, as a nod to tradition, but focuses on several that they find suit best their soils and give wines that are smooth and enjoyable already in their youth. 

2021: Grapes: 70 % Grenache, 15 % Syrah, 5 % Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise 

Vineyard: clay, sandstone, pebbles. Certified organic and biodynamic. Average age of vines is 70 years. 

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed before being crushed, and then put into a concrete tank for spontaneous fermentation. Macerated for 25 days with daily punch-downs. Racked three times and then blended. After pressing, the wine spends 18 months in tanks. Bottled after light filtration, the second spring after harvest.

Personality: flamboyant! Worthy of its famous, sunny terroir, this wine is all about spice & herbs (think pepper, aniseed, laurels and garrigue) mixed with sumptuous dark ripe fruit (blackberries, blueberries, plump black cherries) wrapped in a velvety texture. Ending on tobacco for days and smoothed-out tannins, this will be perfect with any red meat with a wild touch – think dry-aged steaks with fresh herbs, game, or, for the pope-ly indulgent, the classic hare en civet…


Jeu de Rolle Blanc — Back to the top

The wine’s name is a double-sens pun: Jeu de Rolle means “role-play” in French while also giving away the grape it’s made of, the zesty Mediterranean darling Rolle, also known as Vermentino in Italy.

Vineyard: clay, limestone, silt. 9-hectare site close to the winery in Piolenc, certified organic and biodynamic.

Grapes: 100% Rolle

Making of: The grapes are harvested at night to prevent oxidation and any loss of aroma, destemmed before being crushed by a light pneumatic press. Put into concrete and spontaneously fermented for about 10-12 days with daily punch-downs at temperatures between 18 to 20 degrees centigrade. Bottled in the following winter after fining and filtration.

Personality: Joyful and lively. Fragrant nose with white flowers, a hint of lemon zest, lime, and green almonds, perfect match with tapas, cold plates and nibbles.


Entracte Rosé — Back to the top

 

Grapes: Marsanne, Rolle, Merlot

Vineyard: clay, limestone, silt. 9-hectare site close to the winery in Piolenc, certified organic and biodynamic.

Vinification Method: The grapes are harvested at night to prevent oxidation and any loss of aroma, destemmed before being crushed by a light pneumatic press. Put into stainless steel and spontaneously fermented for about 10 days at 17 degrees centigrade. Bottled in the following winter after fining and filtration.

Personality: highly appealing! Tangerine hue, super-fresh nose of red currants, pomegranate, jasmine and acacia flowers, very light palate with refreshing acidity… a perfect partner for any kind of light, summery food and friendly gathering.


Atout Rouge — Back to the top

Something for the wine geeks among us: besides the globally-known Syrah and Merlot, this red wine also sports two lesser-known Mediterannean grapes, the Alicante Bouschet that brings a lot of color to the blend (such grapes are called tenturier in French), and the Caladoc, a relatively new cross of Grenache and Malbec. It was crossbred by researcher Paul Truel in Montpellier in 1958 and, despite being authorized for use in most French winegrowing regions, it remains rather rare and unknown. However, the surface planted with it in France increased more than 5-fold between 1998 and 2018 (from 944 to 5066 hectares), probably due to its drought- and disease-resistant qualities that allow for significantly fewer treatments during the growing season. Moreover, it gives wines with deep color, pleasant body and interesting tannins that are present yet supple and smooth – the ideal combination for an easy-drinking red wine!

Grapes: Syrah, Caladoc, Merlot, Alicante

Vineyard: clay, limestone, silt. 9-hectare site close to the winery in Piolenc, certified organic and biodynamic.

Making of: The grapes are harvested in the early morning, destemmed and lightly punched down by hand for 3 to 4 days at a temperature between 22 and 26 degrees centigrade, then lightly pressed and the wine is fermented in concrete. Kept at low temperature in stainless steel for a few months over winter prior to light filtration and then bottled.

Personality: Intense, lively, convivial. Spices up your gathering with a congenial mix of cherry, licorice, and white pepper. Silky smooth with pleasant fruit, a highly sociable accompaniment to all kinds of aperitivo, cold cuts and barbecues…

 


Mon P’tit Camion Blanc — Back to the top

Grapes: Rolle

Vineyard: clay, limestone, light alluvial soil. Average of the vines is 20 years. Certified organic and biodynamic. 

Making of: The grapes are harvested by machine at night to prevent oxidation and alteration of aromas. Destemmed, crushed, put through a gentle pneumatic press. The juice settles in stainless steel tanks for 24 hours. Fermented with natural yeasts and racked. Filtered and bottled in February 2024.

Personality: A lively mineral notes with mouth-watering whiffs of lime and white flowers. Tense and energizing on the palate, with citric brightness. Drink with oysters for aperitivo or seafood-based dishes like paella, bouillabaisse, and more.