Château Romanin: Two Millennia of Wine and Mystery
Delicious wines, a gorgeous winery and a privileged location in one of the most beautiful spots in France: Château Romanin has it all.
It is also a place where wine, religion and mysticism have intersected for centuries.
It began with the Greeks, who built a shrine here to the goddess Artemis and exported wine throughout the Greek world.
Later, under the Gaulois, the druids used the site to worship the goddess Mother Ann.
Still later, a local Roman governor who claimed to be a descendant of Balthazar—one of the biblical Three Kings of the Magi—exported Romanin wine throughout the Empire.
But it was the Templar knight Raymond de Gantelme who set Romanin on its present course. In the 13th century he built his great château in the Alpilles Mountains, looking north towards Avignon. The château was not only his fortress but also the seat of an important Court of Love, where noble ladies presided over “questions of gallantry.”
Raymond de Gantelme seems to have had a mystical side, as the plan of his château took into account the movements of the heavenly bodies. And as a devout Catholic, his floor plan used royal cubits, the measuring system of King Solomon himself.
Fast-forward seven centuries to 1988 and the creation of the modern Château Romanin winery. At this time the original château was a ruin, its once-mighty walls now crumbling. And as always there were vineyards, but the wine they produced was not nearly what it could be.
The new owners set out to change that, deciding to not only farm organically but also to follow biodynamic principles.
What is biodynamic agriculture? It follows the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian who laid out his philosophy a century ago.
Biodynamic farming shares much with organic farming, like the avoidance of chemical fertilizers. It also considers the actions of the sun, moon and planets for the timing of planting and harvesting. There are other concepts, like burying a cow’s horn in the vineyard, which can only be called mystical. But scientific or not, wineries following biodynamic principles nearly always make excellent wine.
At Romanin, after the grapes are grown and then harvested by hand, they need to be vinified with great care. This requires an excellent facility and in 1992 an underground “cathedral winery” was built. It is strikingly beautiful, following the form of a Gothic cathedral.
Like the original château of Raymond de Gantelme, today’s winery allows you to track the summer and winter solstices as well as the passage of the sun and the moon. And like the original château, King Solomon’s royal cubits were used in the spacing of key architectural elements.
Following biodynamic principles, the winery’s alignment is based on the earth’s magnetic field. Other architectural elements allow it to be in harmony with the earth’s vibrations. These are believed to magnify the natural characteristics of the wine.
In 2006, Romanin was purchased by Anne-Marie and Jean-Louis Charmolüe, the former owners of Bordeaux’s famed Château Montrose. They began a process of upgrading and expanding the vineyards, more than quadrupling them to today’s 250 acres.
The careful growing and vinifying of the grapes at Romanin results in outstanding wine. The domaine produces reds, whites and rosés using local grape varieties like syrah, mourvedre, counoise and roussane, as well as international varieties like cabernet sauvignon. One of my favorites is their fragrant and delicious white wine made from 100% rolle (called vermentino in Italy.)
The wines range from the entry-level Mas de Romanin wines—always an excellent value—up through the La Chapelle and Château Romanin cuvees. Best of all is La Coeur de Romanin, made only in top years. Romanin also produces one of the best olive oils in the area.
The tasting room is open every day except Sundays and holidays from 10am to 1pm and from 3pm to 6pm. It is well worth a visit. The drive to the winery takes you past the local aerodrome, where you can watch gliders take off and land. If you have time for a winery tour, be sure to call ahead as they are only available by appointment.
Tours can also be organized through www.winetourbooking.com
You can see a short video on the history of Romanin and the building of the winery here. It’s in French but enjoyable even if you don’t speak the language. A key section is between the four and seven minute marks where you see the “cathedral winery” being built.
Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Chateau Romanin