...with wine and with their unique “terroir” that has been handed down from generation to generation for nearly a century.
The realisation of a dream
As a young man Jean Pierre Verdeau’s dream was to create a winery in his beloved birthplace, the beautiful hillside village of Séguret in the heart of Provence, just a stone’s throw from the renowned southern Rhône vineyards of Gigondas and Rasteau.
Thanks to his determination, vision, passion and tireless endeavour, that dream came to fruition – and Domaine de l’Amandine is the fruit of his, and his family’s, labour.
The story begins in 1926 when Jean-Pierre’s grandfather, Eugène, founded the wine growers’ cooperative in nearby Sérignan du Comtat. Thirty years later Jean Pierre’s father, Jean-Baptiste, in turn establishes the cooperative in Séguret, still operating today for the wine growers of Roaix and Séguret.
Passionate from his youth, not only about winegrowing but also about winemaking, Jean-Pierre was quick to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he dreamed of making his own wine, still rare at this time and to this end established his own estate in 1968.
With little money, but with tremendous drive and dedication, Jean Pierre (together with his wife Maryse) laboured tirelessly to expand the fledgling Domaine (initially comprising just a few hectares), whilst also raising four young children. Indeed, undeterred by financial constraints, Jean Pierre built the family home, the wine cellar and the storage tanks virtually single-handed, whilst also growing his own rootstock (allowing him to select and graft his own grape varieties), tending to the vines and finding a market for his wine.
In the early years Jean Pierre sold his wine to local wine merchants, but, thanks to his perseverance and ambition, within a few years he had acquired new equipment and more land. In 1984 he purchased “La Grange Vieille de St Véran”, adding 17 acres of prime hillside slopes in Vaison-la-Romaine to the Domaine, then in 1986 he acquired a bottling machine - the very first in this region! He was now ready to launch his own wines - and they were an immediate success.
The next generation
In keeping with family tradition, Jean-Pierre’s sons, Eric and Christian, both assisted him for a number of years before pursuing independent careers in the wine industry.
Today Jean-Pierre, as hardworking and enthusiastic as ever, has been joined by his eldest daughter Sabine and his son-in-law Alex Suter, who both share his desire to consolidate and build on Amandine’s success to date.
Alex Suter, an Englishman, is no stranger to winemaking, as he grew up on one of South Africa’s best known wine estates, namely Rustenberg in Stellenbosch, where his father was the manager.
Indeed it was while working at a winery in Gigondas 25 years ago that Alex met Sabine by chance at the local boulangerie – and the rest as they say is history! Not only did he fall in love with a local girl, but he also soon fell under the spell of this enchanted part of Provence.
Alex has always been interested in horticulture and viticulture – and shares Jean- Pierre’s passion and respect for the land and appreciation of the subtleties of “terroir”. Having worked in a variety of wineries in both the new and old worlds – and having also spent 14 years running his own landscape gardening business, he brings a broad-based horticultural expertise into the family vineyards where his skills dovetail very well with Jean-Pierre’s experience. Furthermore, Alex’s exposure to “new world” influences is bringing a fresh outlook, a youthful vision and a renewed dynamism to the estate.
Sabine shares her father’s love of Provence, of the land and of their cultural heritage. Her love of the local terroir and its produce has found an additional outlet in cooking. It is in this spirit that Sabine has for many years been preparing traditional Provençal cuisine, using fresh local produce and following recipes learned from her mother and grandmother. She is now also sharing her knowledge by offering Provençal cooking classes which take place in their family farmhouse and for which she uses a variety of home-grown ingredients including olive oil and aromatic herbs.
Honouring the past, embracing the present and investing in the future.
Alex and Sabine are keenly aware of the precious winegrowing and winemaking heritage of which they are now the guardians for future generations. The challenge is thus to create wines that are not only authentic, unique and an expression of the local terroir, but that also appeal to an ever more discerning and sophisticated international marketplace.
Both Jean-Pierre and Alex believe that great wines can only be produced from first rate grapes, therefore they tend to their vines lovingly and methodically throughout the year and in a manner that is respectful of - and in harmony with - their terroir. The winegrowing is undertaken and supervised entirely by the family using traditional methods and techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. This hand-on, intuitive approach and affinity with the terroir is in the family’s blood and is priceless.
A great wine is of course the fruit of the labours both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Therefore working in close partnership with the estate’s winemaker, Laurent Durieux, they are using a combination of traditional and more modern wine-making techniques and the latest technology and winemaking equipment to produce wines that are smooth, fruity and elegant, but which also allow the complexity of the area’s unique terroir to express itself.
Thus Jean Pierre, Maryse, Alex and Sabine are enjoying the challenge of bringing this traditional yet dynamic estate, with 120 acres of vines in production, to the forefront of the international wine market, whilst also safeguarding the traditional practices, ethos and know-how that are their legacy and upon which the success of the estate was built.
Looking ahead to the future, Alex and Sabine’s daughter Mathilde, the eldest of their three children, is currently studying wine marketing with a view to joining her parents and grandparents in running the estate in due course – and indeed is already representing the estate at home and abroad. Having recently returned from a year in New Zealand, she also brings some innovative ideas and a new energy to this family business. So, with the fifth generation already in training and displaying the passion for winegrowing and winemaking that is the family’ hallmark, Jean-Pierre can rest assured that Domaine l’Amandine will remain a family affair for many years to come.