When Neil and Béatrice Joyce acquired Domaine Dalmeran in June 2006, it was a radical change for them. Neil, originally from England, had a sales management background, while Béatrice worked as a legal expert. “But we’d decided to live our passion for wine,” she explains. “We wanted to reawaken this sleeping beauty, a magnificent property that had lost its lustre, so it was a challenge for us.”
Located on the northern slope of Provence’s Alpilles, along the ancient Roman Via Domitia, the domaine is part of the small, quality-conscious Les Baux de Provence AOC. Since its creation in 1995 as an offshoot of the Coteaux d’Aix appellation, its producers have formed a cohesive and environmentally dedicated group; 85% of all vineyards are now organically cultivated.
Gallo-Roman vestiges abound on the 38-hectare property, which today includes a vast park, forests, and 12 hectares of vines. Most of these were planted more than 25 years ago, though the vine was cultivated here as early as 1531. “History and biodiversity permeate this property, and we wanted to nurture that on several levels of expression,” explains Béatrice.
Once the Joyces got château renovations under way, they began a search for the best areas in the stony chalk-clay soils for white grape varieties. Working closely with maître de chai Arnaud Ferrier, on the spot since 1997, they had two hectares of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne planted in 2007; 2011 will be the domaine’s first white vintage.
In red, Mourvèdre has been planted to join the classic Rhône varieties of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, with a small existing planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. Permutations of these make up the domaine’s three current wines: La Cuvée Bastide Dalmeran, Château Dalmeran Rosé, and the flagship Château Dalmeran Rouge.
When the Joyces arrived, the domaine was already under organic conversion. This no-chemicals programme was stepped up over the next three years, so that they finally received the Ecocert stamp after the 2010 harvest. There’s a green harvest in August, and at final harvest an initial sorting in the vineyard before the grapes hit the sorting table at the cuverie. Yields run at an annual average of 35 hl/ha, though Château Dalmeran Rouge comes in at no more than half that.
Exports, which are Neil’s concern, are small but increasing – for now mainly to the US, as well as Belgium and Denmark. Béatrice looks after the domestic market, with sales to specialist wine shops, cafés and restaurants, and clients at the domaine. They have now acquired a second domaine, La Célestière, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Béatrice also deals with communications and the development of wine-related and cultural events at Dalmeran. Foremost among these is an annual competition for young chefs from the region, the challenge being to come up with the best food matches for the domaine’s wines.
An evening in June each year is devoted to a jazz concert, while there are popular wine and cuisine initiation days where consumers benefit from the professionals’ expertise. And the
domaine is one of the host properties for the annual Ap’Art Festival, bringing together the work of some 70 international artists.
The Joyces’ outlook dispenses with boundaries. “We have a paradise here, and we want to pass some of that on to those who come to Dalmeran, to pass on that spark, the magic, the artistry. Our vision is one that is open to the world, to culture, to exchanges – to life’s essential values.”
45 chemin ND du Château
13103 St Etienne du Grès
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Tel : 04 90 49 04 04