Château Vignelaure owes its existence to Georges Brunet, one time owner of Bordeaux third growth Château La Lagune who established the estate just north of Aix-en-Provence in the 1960s. Choosing a site of clay, limestone and gravel covering some 60 hectares of beautiful Provençal countryside 350 metres above sea level, he set about planting cabernet sauvignon using cuttings taken from his Bordeaux estate. Despite the difficulties of ripening cabernet fully in this setting, and despite being embraced by protective hills, he made high-quality wines. In 1985 the region as a whole was approved for appellation contrôlée status as Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.
The estate is now owned by Swedish couple Bengt and Mette Sundstrom, who fell in love with the place while looking for a retirement home in the south of France. These days syrah, grenache, cinsault and carignan have been planted or acquired alongside the vines introduced by Brunet, and white varieties roussanne, rolle (aka vermentino) and semillon have now been planted in a higher part of the vineyard where it was realised that the red varieties were not so suited to the terror.
Early vintages of white wines are very promising indeed, and they have recently begun making excellent rosé, but the reputation of the estate rests on the red wines. These are fermented in stainless steel before 12 to 24 months’ maturation in oak (one third of which is new) in underground cellars, before a further 18 months minimum in bottle.
The four years that the wines often spend in the cellars before release is an illustration of director Phillippe Bru and winemaker Sigvard Johnson’s desire not to compromise and to make a wine that reflects the terroir and to age it for release when it is ready rather than make a softer, more approachable wine that would be more approachable when young. As a result they have earned an enviable reputation as one of the best estates in the south of France, let alone Provence.