Who: Christian and Nadia Charmasson.
What: Vin de France.
Where: Tavel, Gard, France.
When: Since 1995.
This tiny Domaine, based in Tavel, has run by Christian and Nadia Charmasson since 1995. They’re to be found on the edge of the village with their home and cellar opening on to the undulating plateau of Tavel’s best vineyards to the north. This seems entirely appropriate since the Charmassons are very much on the edge of what’s happening in Tavel. Eric Pfefferling of L’Anglore is just down the same road nearer the village.
Tavel styles itself the Premier rosé in France. There’s some truth behind this because it’s the only Appellation that is devoted to the colour rosé. But, apart from L’Anglore’s splendid wines, the vast majority of Tavel is treated like commercial commodity wine, not made to thrill lovers of artisan wines, but made competently, clean, technologically to sell units, and without much soul.
And while L’Anglore’s wines have become world-renowned and universally sought after, those of Balazu are produced in ver small quantity and remain under the radar. Yet, they reward the effort of seeking out and tasting for their naked purity, and expression of terroir.
Nadia and Christian used to make Tavel and Lirac until 2007 but became disillusioned with their own wines within the Appellation system and stopped making wine. They converted fully to biodynamics and re-learned how to make wine without any additives, without sulfites, and with minimal technological intervention. The first new wines were from the 2011 vintage.
Christian is from an old farming family of the region. He’s quiet, questioning, observing, and usually luxuriously bearded, as befits the natural farmer. Nadia radiates warmth, and opinions, and is proud of her roots in Kabyle cultural group of the Berber farming tribes of North Africa (neither Arab nor Muslim). (Other prominent Kabyle include footballers Zinedine Zidane and Karim Benzema, and film star Isabelle Adjani). She expresses herself with passion, direct and stubborn, while watching patiently over her wines. Together Christian and Nadia are a formidable balance.
They are fervent about working naturally. They might spend a weekend to go to collect manure from organic livestock farms. They make all their own biodynamic preparations from plants in their vineyards, for personal use, as well as in the vines. They don’t take part in any wine Fairs but Nadia presents her wines all over France and as a result she is represented in a growing number of top regional natural wine bars, as well as in New York (Chambers Street) and London (Modal Wines).
The Charmassons farm just 5 hectares over half a dozen parcels in Tavel and Lirac for a total production of just around 10,000 bottles. This includes the following: 4 rows in Le Plan, Tavel planted in 1946 at 80m on sand; Romagnac, Tavel, planted in 1988 on Lauzes soils, the slatey limestone used for local building at 100m; Clary in Roquemaure planted in 1950 at 80m on clay limestone; St Agricole in Roquemaure planted in 1995 on clay-sand-galets. They used to be certified Biodynamic by Demeter but are now simply committed to the practice than the filling of documents for Certification.