Two fifth-generation members of the Perrin family, when in Hong Kong for VinExpo Asia-Pacific 2014 (in May, 2014) talked to Asian Palate about the success if the family wine business, which as certainly caught a lot more public attention since a certain A-list Hollywood couple sought their services. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s partnership with the Perrin family has resulted in two successive central Provence rosé vintages (2012 and 2013) at Chateau Miraval, which they own.
But it is the long family line in Rhone Valley winemaking that made the Perrin family’s reputation, along with their esteemed Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes-du-Rhone. When looking at the best of Rhone Valley wines, their labels are often cited.
According to Mattheiu Perrin, the key to this success is simply the terrior. “It is a unique terrior around Chateau Beaucastel,” he said. “We just try to do the best we can do with what it produces.”
Humble talk for wines that regularly score very highly among critics. North America is the largest market, accounting for 50 per cent of the 65 per cent exported from France. In Asia, Japan is the largest market, then Hong Kong and increasingly, Mainland China and Southeast Asia. But he continued to play the Perrin status down, adding, “We are farmers first, and after that we are winemakers – we own most of the land from which we make wine, and looking after that is the most important thing.”
Chateau Beaucastel comprises 100 hectares, while there are another 200 hectares also in the southern Rhone Valley region under family ownership, including vines for Perrin & Fils wine production.
Organic may be a buzz-word in sections of the wine world today but second-generation winemaker Jacques Perrin decided to stop any kind of pesticide in 1954. “People thought he was crazy;” said Matthieu, “ no-one was doing this at that time. Now we see it as a genius idea – he wanted the wine to reflect the climate and soil, without chemical insecticides.
“If we buy new vineyards now, we only look for ones that have been organic for some years.”
The same sensibility is present in the family’s négociant wine label, La Vieille Ferme (in which grapes are bought from selected growers).
Pierre Perrin, Matthieu’s first cousin, is more focused on oenology, but they both said that all family members are at various times involved in all processes from winemaking, logistics and production to travelling to overseas markets. “It is a collective success,” he said, “after a certain age, we all realise that we do not carry individual importance – people meet a Perrin and we play with our roles – as we all have more than one.”
Both Perrins were fielding many a question about the Chateau Miraval project. There had been talk that Jolie and Pitt might be discussing a ‘Super Tuscan’-style red, meaning that like the acclaimed Italian wines, non-indigenous grapes might be used, possibly on land outside their own appellation area. Pierre Perrin said that the family was working with soil microbiologist Claude Bouginon, a renowned winery consultant for the planning.
Slider picture by Serge Chapuis