Those who know me know that I have 100% jumped onto the rosé bandwagon and will order a chilled glass of the pink stuff above anything else in a bar. It is THE drink of the moment and a staple of my friendship group, so when I was given the opportunity to interview the founders and owners of Mirabeau, one of the countries most highly regarded rosés, I leapt at the chance!
Of course before any interview, it is important to do your research, so on Friday evening I invited my man-pal H to join me for a picnic in Hyde Park with a feast of charcuterie, pork pies, paté and cheeses from the Waitrose deli, all to be washed down with a bottle of Mirabeau’s classic rosé wine, also available in store. Priced at £9.99 a bottle, this classic is fruity, extremely quaffable and holds its own very well against the strong flavours we had at our picnic.
The following day, my girlfriends were my tasting partners for the Mirabeau Pure rosé, priced at £12.99. A much lighter and more complex wine, this wine was beautiful to drink on a hot Summer’s day in Regents Park, where we were all perfectly placed for me to totter off as the evening began to cool for me to meet and interview Jeany and Stephen, the owners of Mirabeau who were showcasing their wares at this year’s Taste of London festival just around the corner in the park.
I arrived already floating on the high of a day drinking Mirabeau Pure, and couldn’t wait to meet the couple who had ditched the London rat race almost 10 years ago and put my own dream of moving to the South of France to create one of the best rosés in the world into action.
With a glass of their Pure in hand, we settled on some comfortable chairs within their cabana ready for them to tell me about their exciting life making one of the countries best wines.
It’s wonderful to meet you both. So you are husband and wife?
Stephen: Since nearly 20 years now, yes.
That’s amazing, so what was it that made you take the leap to finally make the move from London to Provence?
S: So we had been talking about it for 10 years, but I had been in the wine trade before and soon after we got married and bought our first marital home, I went walking in France with some friends of mine, and they said for the same price that we’d paid for a house we could have bought a vineyard there, and that was the trigger for me to come back and say, “one day, we’ll do it,” and we really did speak about it, it wasn’t just an impulse thing.
Because I’d been in the wine trade before I knew I had to ask the right people the right questions and generally people were saying “don’t be insane” – there are all these expressions about the only way to make a fortune in the wine trade is to start with a large wine rather than make a small one, so we talked about it, we did research and we were finessing the idea, and then I got offered a big promotion at work and that was a moment when we looked at each other and we said, “do I take the job or do we bugger off now because this is a career crossroads”, and we decided to make the step.
And what’s it like there, is it as amazing and romantic as my imagination portrays it to be; is it The Dream?
Jeany: It is really amazingly beautiful and there is beauty all around you, so if you’re a visual person you can’t help but he astounded by it, it is enchanting and having the sun most of the time is also awesome, you feel upbeat and people are quite happy. And what we do like a lot is there is still a lot of value in spending time together; that standard of living. We often can’t really indulge it because we have to work but it is sort of something that I see around a lot and I think its a nice thing to do, and people take time for a Sunday lunch, they spend loads of money, you know cheap shopping doesn’t really happen – its that kind of placing value on food, on wine, on time together and that is really nice to be a part of that.
And you’ve got kids, how do they find it? Are they loving this amazing way of life?
J: Most of the time, I mean they’re completely submerged because they were 8, 7 and 1 when we arrived.
Sounds like it was the right time to take the plunge. It must be a lovely contrast to London and a totally different way of living! So why Rosé?
S: Because we chose Provence, but we didn’t choose Provence because we knew rosé was going to be the next big thing, we chose it because Jeany wanted to go somewhere nice to live!
J: We both had a long-standing affinity, a love affair with rosé! Almost every celebratory picture of our marriage or babies, there’s rosé, there are pictures of rosé so we love that wine and we thought that wine had changed a lot and in a relatively short amount of time it had gone from quite badly made wine that you only really drink when you’re on holiday or a beach, and we’d mainly drink it at home because you couldn’t really buy decent rosé in restaurants then like you can now so we’d buy what was nice and available. But even if you brought it along to dinner people would think it was a bit odd and so different, but we used to always drink it, and our heart was really in it; it coincided with this phenomenon that people really loved it, and it’s great surfing the wave, I guess, but we’re there to stay and bring something nice to people, and quite a lot of people, which was our goal – we didn’t want to have something only 1500 people could enjoy, we wanted to make something that most people could buy and have a nice time with.
So I’m a huge rosé fan, I’ve fully submerged into the rosé craze, why do you think rosé is having its moment now?
S: I think its because in France they drink a lot of rosé, and the standard of Provence rosé has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, there have been massive investments in it, and people would go on holiday, and they’d want it when they return to England or the States, so I think it’s mostly around that. Rosé is actually a very difficult wine to make, very intensive and it costs more money because you’re dealing with that third element of the colour, and with rosé that the third element needs investment so I think that’s what has caused it, and rosé from Provence is the benchmark.
J: There’s a lot of good wine being made; beforehand it was a precious jewel, but now if you buy a Provence rosé for around a tenner you’re not going to get a hideous wine, you can be pretty certain it will be good quality.
S: Also I think the reason why Provence is doing so well is because the White Zinfandels and the Blossom Hills had their moment but Provence is always dry, by the laws of it, it has to be dry, so for the people who don’t want that kind of sweet rosé they have the comfort of going to a Provence rosé which is why Provence is the safe haven because the quality has improved a lot.
J: And I think people are also so keen on the pale colour.
So you have three wines, what is it that differentiates the three?
S: What we wanted to do was show you can have different styles within the Provence category, so we have the three which actually if you try them together you can tell the difference. So the classic was our first ever wine and we wanted it to be very moreish and yummy, lots of character, goes with virtually every food type and we paired it with coronation chicken which went really well – that was with Billy & Jack from Masterchef!
J: They were brilliant, actually, they took it really seriously. I asked them to pair it with something they wouldn’t naturally pair it with, as the Pure it pairs so well with salmon and crab so we went for a classic crab sandwich there, but people struggle with what to pair with spicy food or curries or Japanese sushi, and actually fruit rose is perfect, and people really saw that with what they created! And Etoile, that pairs well with a creamy cheese or a dessert so we wanted to challenge that rosé is only to be drunk on a beautiful day with a BBQ, because really this is a wine that belongs on a dinner table, with its price tag it should be. But classic has that much more fruity and fun taste.
Well, it’s so easy to drink, it went with all of our picnic on Friday…
J: And you can have strong flavours, like the charcuterie you had, where as Pure is a lot more suited to grilled fish as its more subtle and elegant.
The Pure does seem a lot lighter and easier to drink…
J: In terms of flavour profile, it has that clean taste, and that’s why we call it Pure, it has that minerally, clean filter.
S: It’s about the purity of Provence and the expression and style of where it comes from. It has a lot more structure and tension to it, and more serious. Pure was voted one of the top 10 rosés in the world and that is what we set out to do!
So that was the goal, you set out to create the best rosé?
S: Yeh, and when we look back at that it could seem to be laughable, but we knew there was a different way to make rosé, and some people are shocked to learn we don’t own the vines ouselves, we work with the best people in the area and we have this amazing partnership with the growers, we have five that we work with so it works so well, because when we got there with the money we’d made from selling our house we thought we could buy a vineyard, but the truth is the best vineyards are not for sale.
So would you say that creating a successful wine brand and product is down to having a good business acumen or is it solely the product?
S: It’s all about whats in the wine, because no matter how good at business you are if your product isn’t’ right then it won’t sell
J: But there are several facets to the story…
S: Yes if you have good wine but no-one discovers it then it won’t sell! And that’s why Taste of London exists, we have all these amazing crowds of people that want to show what they’re passionate about and share it.
J: I think the fact that we are more widely available doesn’t make us less passionate. We set out to make something amazing, we set the bar high and made something really nice, and I would hate someone to be disappointed with one of our bottles and we believed the best way to do it was to actually work with a selection of different growers because otherwise, if you have a bad weather day and the harvest is ruined, we can avoid that area, as we can then have a choice of blends, it’s like perfumers work, we source like most good brands and we are then good at putting it together. We don’t have to then deal with a bad season, and that is the benefit of our model. It’s never bad everywhere, and its a large area so we can choose from another side of the mountain, we have the flexibility to choose.
S: Even with 300 days of sunshine a year it is amazing how it can change every year and have a massive impact on the style, so we want to make it consistent and we feel duty bound to provide the best quality of wine for the consumer and that’s the benefit of our model.
J: People don’t like it when what they’ve come to know suddenly changes. We want to get better every year but on the other hand, we want it to be consistent and always good.So what’s next, you’ve got your three perfected wines, is there a 4th product?
Well, it’s funny you should ask! We are about to launch next month with Waitrose, something we think could be quite fun, considering the two big wine trends of the last 5 years have been prosecco and rosé…
Is it a sparkling rosé? *I squealed at this point!*
S: From Provence, yes! It’s delicious, and we’ve been playing around with sparking roses for the last two or three years and we think we’ve made a good one! There are three different ways in Provence to make a sparking rosé, the first is the Champagne way which takes a fair bit of time and a lot of fiddling around with, the second is the Provence way which is called Method Provencial, but we’ve decided to go for the third method which is how they make Prosecco so it comes out a lot younger and it’s just the most beautiful colour and is so easy to drink, it’s the most enjoyable sparkling rosé you’ve ever had!
And when can we expect to enjoy that?
S: End of July, beginning of August, and we have no idea how it’s going to go but it’s very exciting, still the perfect time of year to enjoy it.Jeany & Stephen have achieved so much in the ten years since they decided to take the plunge and move to Provence. Mirabeau is a beautiful brand with consistently stunning products that stand for quality and consistency. They are a wonderful example of how a family business can achieve great things, especially when there is such passion behind the product. If there was every a story that can inspire me to finally take that plunge and move away to start a business, it’s this one. By taking a risk, Jeany & Stephen have created a brand that is only going to continue getting better, and I for one couldn’t be more excited about what is to come. I already know that sparkling rosé is going to be my new obsession.
You can purchase each of the wines in the collection in Waitrose as well as online, and make sure you look out for their new sparkling rosé in the next few months.
A huge thank you to Jeany & Stephen for taking the time to tell me more about themselves and their wonderful products. All photos used have been taken from their social media accounts, make sure to give them a follow.