Mazan: a revolutionary method of preserving natural wine

At Château la Croix des Pins, in Mazan, the cuvée "La Tête à l'envers" makes the oenologist look like a lunatic.

We tasted this natural wine designed to withstand travel: it holds up!

To understand why, one night, the oenologist Jean-Pierre Valade had the idea of putting bottles of wine without sulfites upside down so that the beverage could be preserved, it is necessary to specify that he is first and foremost an international consultant for the manufacture of sparkling wines. While currently working on the destiny of the Château de La Croix des Pins, in Mazan, he travels constantly to Spain, Italy, Venezuela, Uruguay... to spread his precious knowledge on behalf of the Institut œnologique de Champagne. A structure that has six laboratories across France, including one in Courthézon, and belonged to a certain Eric Petitjean, who sold the company in 2008. "Eric allowed me to realize one of my dreams: to become a winemaker. As I am originally from Gap, I was attracted to the South, where I looked for a domain. So he invested for me in La Croix des Pins, where I also own shares," confides Jean-Pierre Valade.

Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise

After acquiring the buildings and 22 hectares of AOC Ventoux, at the crossroads between Caromb, Mazan and Bedoin, the duo also acquired seven hectares of Gigondas and four of Beaumes-de-Venise. A nice range of appellations, enriched, in the cellar, by some champagnes from the property of... Eric Petitjean.

Our Provençal vineyards face climate change

A champagne vinification from which the unusual cuvée "La Tête à l'envers" is fully inspired. To make champagne," explains Jean-Pierre Valade, "we take a strong bottle and add sugar and yeast. Fermentation produces carbon dioxide that is trapped and condenses 60 million bubbles in the bottle. The yeast, which can capture oxygen from the outside, even through a cap, can also act as a filter. That's why when we want to block the evolution of champagne, we leave it 'on point'." This is how the technician came up with the idea of transposing his manipulation to preserve red wine without sulfur.

That day when Patrick Chêne became a Vauclusian winemaker

"If you have a healthy harvest and enough know-how, making wine without sulfites is possible. But to preserve this wine without antioxidant or antiseptic, it is more problematic. And to make it travel, it is impossible. It is too afraid of temperature changes. On La Tête à l'envers bottles, therefore, it is a three-millimeter deposit of yeast, which is deposited between the wine and the cork, that acts as a sulfite and helps with preservation."


As you enter the cellar of Château La Croix des Pins, you immediately notice these bottles with their asses in the air, in their custom-made containers. The doubters in front of a name of vintage which combines the humor, the realism and the marketing, after some questions and a tasting, can note that they are in front of a true find. This natural wine has remained, as the specialists say, "on the freshness and the fruit", but, above all, the first vintages of 2013 have not moved. This, moreover, chagrined our inventor, who refines his champeno-comtadine method over the vintages. "In 2013, I had used very long, airtight corks. Plus the yeast and the position, the exchanges with the outside were too limited. So I put in normal corks. In terms of grape variety choice, I also switched from syrah to marselan." Otherwise, as a final manufacturing tip, he can still tell you that "the yeast used comes from the first fermentation of the wine."

Technology at the service of our winemakers

The oenologist, who relies on his invaluable cellar master Christophe Didier to lead his organic vineyards and wines to their optimal capacity, is not, however, a natural wine extremist. "In reasonable doses, sulfite does not harm your health. There is less in wine than in raisins..." This man is not content with putting bottles upside down, he also likes to shake up received ideas.

Bernard Sorbier, La Provence