In the heart of the Var region 25 kilometres from Fréjus in France, the magnificent Château d’Esclans estate covers 267 hectares, including 44 hectares of vineyards. Owner Sacha Lichine is a visionary who has been passionate about wine since childhood. He has established a range of exceptional rosés in collaboration with oenologist Patrick Léon (former director of Château Mouton Rothschild). Together, they have created a world-renowned brand that has catapulted rosé into the universe of great wines. LUXE went to France to meet Sacha Lichine.
How did you get the idea of producing a great rosé wine?
After I sold Château Prieuré-Lichine in Margaux back in 1999, I was looking for a property where I could play out my somewhat crazy idea of making rosé into a great wine. When I visited Château d’Esclans, I thought it had exceptional terroirs. I bought it in 2006. Back then, rosé was seen as a mere diversion. Only Tavels were considered to be high quality, but they were dark. My oenologist Patrick Léon and I wanted to make a very pale rosé that would be of excellent quality.
Your facilities are impressive. How do they contribute to the quality of your wines?
It’s easy to make an average rosé, but very hard to make an excellent one. We had to work out a huge number of details to get the results we wanted. The key is protecting the wine from oxidation, so we provided ourselves with leading-edge technology so that we could control the fermentation temperatures, and thus the coolness and flavours of the grapes.
Tell us about your range of rosés.
We designed our brand of rosés based on the model used in Champagne. We make four wines, ranging from our mid-range Whispering Angel to our top-of-the-line Garrus. One was designed to be sold by the glass, the other to be on the wine list. That’s the interesting bit.
You’ve gone from 140,000 bottles sold to 2,000,000 in ten years. If you wanted to restore the status of rosé as a fine wine, you seem to have succeeded!
You never know if you’ve really succeeded or not, but in any case we’ve succeeded in making people love our wine. Champagnes were a great help to us. For a long time no one wanted rosé Champagnes. For the past twenty years they’ve been selling at a higher price than other Champagnes. This fad has helped to change the way people see rosés.
Today, you’re successful around the world. Your wines are distributed in 85 countries. That’s impressive!
Yes, we work with 135 distributors and export 90% of our production, 50% of which goes to the United States. Our wine is sold in Dubai, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, South Africa and Australia.
And in Québec?
Whispering Angel (1.5 l) and Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel (750 ml) are sold in SAQ outlets ($47.25 and $24.45 respectively).