With a multi-century history of world-class quality and inimitable personality, Simone is one of southern France’s few and undisputed Grand Crus. Today we are offering a gorgeous and surprisingly approachable bottle of the estate’s timeless red. We’ve only been able to offer Simone’s wines twice before, so we’re excited, but there’s an extra treat this time: Whereas previous vintages of Simone’s red have sold briskly on this site for over $60, a strong US dollar has brought the price down. This is a truly special wine you should not miss!
(Please note: This wine is on special order and will arrive at SommSelect next week for shipment. The wines will arrive to you in approximately 2-3 weeks depending on your location in the US.)
For more than two centuries, the Rougier family has been working the vines surrounding Château Simone. The family’s property clings to a single hillside in Montaiguet, a small hamlet just east of Aix-en-Provence and twenty miles north of Marseille. The appellation that encompasses this village is Palette AOC, and even as a small independent producer, Château Simone produces a majority of the wine labeled within the designation. To the naked eye, Château Simone appears to be a classic family-run château, but it’s impossible to begin discussing the property without diving into the myriad qualities that make this one of the most unique estates in France.
The first and perhaps most shocking feature of the Rougier family’s vines is that they are north facing. Yes, you read that correctly—Simone’s vines cling to a 750-foot limestone face that is angled away from the sun. This is unusual, but it allows the vines to retain their freshness despite the region’s fierce heat. It is one of the very few north-facing vineyards (in the northern hemisphere) I’ve ever seen that produces world-class wine. Next, there is a mind-boggling diversity of grape varieties among these ancient vines. Château Simone sits directly between Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol, so it’s unsurprising to see standards like Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, and Carignan—but if you look a little closer, you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon, Manosquin, Castet, Muscat Noir, Théoulier, Tibouren, Picpoul Noir, Muscat de Hambourg, and many others. Finally, the character of Château Simone’s wines is perhaps what is most fascinating for sommeliers. Despite the punishingly hot and long growing season, the century-and-a-half-old vines, and the diversity of thick-skinned black grapes, Château Simone does not produce heavy or overpowering wines. On the contrary, the Rougiers are renowned for bottling elegant, floral, aromatic reds that dance on the palate rather than hammer it with alcohol and extract. This is Provençal wine for lovers of Burgundy, Barbaresco, and traditional Bordeaux.
Château Simone’s grapes are harvested by hand, destemmed, and lightly pressed before fermentation. Indigenous yeast fermentation lasts for two to three weeks in wooden vats. Afterward, the wine is racked into small foudre (wooden vats) to rest on lees. After 18-24 months in foudre, the wine is racked once more into neutral, older barriques (smaller-capacity barrels) where it rests for an additional year before bottling. All told, the process takes more than four years before release into the US market—but it’s still not enough! In my experience with Château Simone, the wines often require an additional few years of cellaring before they start to really show their stuff. Today’s wine is no exception, but even in its youth, it’s singing.
The 2012 Château Simone Rouge has a crimson center moving to a garnet rim. The nose is deeply floral and elegant, with violets, roses, black tea, lavender, red currants, black cherry, tobacco, leather and crushed stone notes rising from the glass. This bottle is a master class in balance and precision—there are no rough edges, and every stitch of this wine’s structure and aromatic tapestry is perfectly integrated. One might expect such finesse and delicacy in Burgundy, but Chateau Simone is arguably the only estate that can pull this off in Provence. It’s a beautiful, seductive wine. For now, please decant for one hour and serve in large Bordeaux stems at about 60 degrees. I love the contrast of juxtaposing a refined red wine with rustic country cuisine. So, if you have a free afternoon in the coming month, I urge you to prepare this outstanding lamb shank
recipe alongside a rustic loaf of French country bread from your favorite local baker. Together with this red, it’s a one-way ticket to the sun-kissed hills of Provence.