Sébastien Philibert joined Château de Calavon and the Jas des Papes estate in 2016. Born into a family of winegrowers, in the 5th generation, his career path has taken him from the Drôme Provençale to the vineyards of Cahors, passing through the Charentes-Maritimes. So Provence is a bit like a return to the roots. The terroirs of the Rhone Valley are familiar to him, those of the Aix hills, a discovery, even if the grape varieties are close and complementary.
It is with a little sadness that Sébastien recalls the memory of Michel Audibert, owner of the vineyards, who passed away last year. "He was a visionary and committed winegrower, who worked hard for the red wines of Provence. For a long time he looked for vines in Châteauneuf to create this link between two beautiful terroirs of red wines. »
For Sébastien, the arrival in Calavon and Jas is his third life as a winegrower. "Michel Audibert gave me the opportunity to continue, open up and deepen my knowledge. We had a very strong, almost filial bond. It was a real transmission. He asked me to lead Calavon and the Jas des Papes towards excellence. "Very close to the land, Sébastien very quickly discovered its characteristics, assets and pitfalls to avoid. While he spends most of his time in the vineyard, his passion is mainly working in the cellar. Not to mention the olive trees he is developing in Calavon. "We replanted some this year, we now have 12 hectares and in the long run, we would like to produce mouth olives for our customers, and even have our own mill. »
Calavon is a somewhat capricious and particular terroir, with a microclimate that really needs to be taken into account. Very early, the harvest lasts 6 to 7 weeks. "We have a wide variety of soils, ranging from deep sandy-clay soils to shallow stony hillsides. While this variety is very complex, it requires a lot of observation and humility. What is valid for one year is not necessarily valid for the next. And with global warming, we have to manage each plot by plot, whether it is tillage, treatments or irrigation. »
Another particularity is that the vineyard has 11 hectares of Carignan, which the Audibert family has always lovingly preserved. "It is a grape variety that has been denigrated but that I like very much. I've been working on it for a long time. Today, we have sensational results. After the craze for Syrah and Grenache, we realize that it is a grape variety that has its place because it is early, and we can harvest it ripe. That counts for years to come, with global warming. »
A subject close to his heart, which has always been practiced in Sébastien's family. "My father did a lot, my grandmother was passionate about grafts and always selected apricots, olives and vines. She made her rootstock plans because there were no regulations at the time. "For Sébastien, the objective is to perpetuate the plant capital, to maintain a constant in the wines. Clonal selection gradually leads to standardization. Today, there are yields, degrees, but a loss of typicity: "we are moving towards standard wines". So the mass selection makes sense. When you select the best feet, you go beyond the existing capital.
When asked how he manages two domains as different as Calavon and Le Jas des Papes, Sébastien explains the complementarity he finds there, the bridges he has created, especially through the common grape varieties. Even if the vinifications and characteristics are very different. The syrahs on the slopes of Aix and in Châteauneuf have nothing to do with it. Syrah behaves better on chateauneuf, gives more freshness.
"Châteauneuf is a terroir that I know quite well. It's a bit of a return to basics for me, I had vines on hillsides and plateaus with a lot of pebbles, so I know the complexity of working on this type of soil. On a 1/2 hectare plot, there are three, four or even five different terroirs, which implies a great organization for the harvest. But we realize that once in the vat, we find what we tasted on the vine. The terroir of Châteauneuf is really very expressive and there is a very deep, historical link between the terroir and the finished product. The deep soils produce sweet, silky wines that will not be found in the south. Afterwards I also discover the whims of the appellation. But I am fortunate to have someone on site who makes wine and supports me well. »
This very beautiful terroir, to the east of the appellation, offers wines on the fruit, structured, with very fine tannins, and beautiful elegance after a passage on wood. And even if the team still considers itself in search, we can already guess behind the first vintages the true promising identity of the wines of Jas des Papes.