Home > Good, Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > The History and Wines of Chateau Juvenal

The History and Wines of Chateau Juvenal

The Front of Chateau Juvenal. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

The Front of Chateau Juvenal. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

I first tasted the wines of Chateau Juvenal at the Eric Solomon Portfolio Tasting which you may read about in my post The Eric Solomon Selections Portfolio Tasting – Part 2.  Aline Santoro is part of the family who owns Chateau Juvenal and she was pouring her wines at a table next to Philippe Cambie.  Philippe Cambie is the consulting oenologist for Chateau Juvenal and his name has been featured in several of my posts.  Aline poured the 2011 Chateau Juvenal, Les Ribes du Vallat and the 2011 Chateau Juvenal, Le Terre du Petit Homme.  While I tasted the wines Aline told me these bottles represented the first vintage produced at the chateau.  Aline and I spoke some more at the portfolio tasting and later conversed via email.  I became curious about the history of the estate and how they came about producing new wines.  Aline and her family kindly answered my many questions and even sent me the samples featured at the end of this post.  I find the history of the estate interesting because it touches on a subject I am starting to explore, the intersection of garden and vineyard history.

Chateau Juvenal in 1870. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Chateau Juvenal in 1870. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Though the 2011 vintage was the first produced at Chateau Juvenal, grapes have been grown for decades with the history of the estate going back into the 19th century.  In 1830 Joseph Antoine Nicolet purchased the Graveyron farm along with the surrounding fields.  At the time there had been a mazet in existence for 15 years as well as 100 year old olive trees.  Joseph Antoine Nicolet and his wife Therese Allegier raised their only daughter Amélie Nicolet who later married Leon Thouvenot in 1853.  Born in Vosges, he was a polytechnic graduate who went on to become the principal engineer of a French water network.  He built the existing chateau and commissioned the surrounding park at the end of the Second Empire in 1870.  Angelle, the daughter of Leon Thouvenot and Amélie Nicolet, married Adrien Juvenal.  Adrien Juvenal was a lawyer from a Provencal family.

Original Plan of the Park.  Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Original Plan of the Park. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

The commission for the park was assigned to a landscape architect from Lyon.  The original plan and many of the plantings still survive.  These include twenty different species of conifers, five different types of hardwoods, shrubs, and trees for the orchard.  For generations the estate was dedicated to the production of olives.  By 1956 some 5,000 olives trees were farmed on 18 hectares.  That year the terrible frost destroyed 80% of the olive trees.  Despite the survival of some of the oldest trees the orientation of the estate changed.  While the exact reasons are unknown they may be inferred.  An olive tree does not have roots, instead there is a spongy mass of wood underground.  It is said that an olive tree never dies because it may generate a new trunk from the underground mass.  It takes over five years and up to 10 years before it may return to production.  However, it takes less time for a newly planted grapevine to bear suitable fruit, so chances are economic reasons changed the orientation.  In 1958 the first grapevines were planted but the wine was not marketed.  In the 1960s, the grandparents of Sébastien Alban planted vineyards on plots neighboring Chateau Juvenal.  In 1975 Sébastien’s parents, Jean-Claude and Mireille Alban began maintaining both the Juvenal and Alban estates.

View from the Front Entrance of the Estate.  Image from Ch. Juvenal.

View from the Front Entrance of the Estate. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

In 1995, the fruit of Juvenal was brought to the local cooperative Balma Venitia.  It is here that the commercial wines were first made under the Chateau Juvenal label.  Sébastien Alban began working with his family estate in 1997.  Balma Venitia similarly produced his family’s wines under the label Domaine Alban.  In 2001 Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier purchased Chateau Juvenal from Charles Martin the great-grandson of Angelle and Adrien Juvenal.  Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier continued to produce wine at the local cooperative for the next decade.

At the same time Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier set about restoring the chateau and the land.  The restoration was thorough.  The roof of the chateau was restored with Roman tile using as many of the original pieces as possible.  The windows, doors, stairs, and rooms were left in their original locations.  The south facing windows were preserved with original glass where possible. The introduction of modern plumbing, electricity, and communication lines was done within the walls so as not to disturb the flooring.  The kitchen maintains its original design with the pile in the patouille, the potager under the window, the fireplace, and cabinets with their original doors.  They also purchased the furniture in the chateau which predates the 1870 construction and stretches back to the 17th century.  The farm building needed a bit more work such as the introduction of a staircase and re-slabbing of the floors so they were level and of proper height.   The original pond survived and is home to a constant population of toads who eat dragonflies and sing at night.

Sebastien Alban, Jean-Claude Alban, Bernard and Anne-Marie Forestier. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Sebastien Alban, Jean-Claude Alban, Bernard and Anne-Marie Forestier. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier became partners with Sébastien Alban in 2011. They merged their land to provide 20 hectares of vines, built the Chateau Juvenal cellars, and vinified wine at Chateau Juvenal for the first time in September 2011.  Upon deciding to produce wine at Chateau Juvenal the partners asked for the help of Philippe Cambie.  The timing was fortuitous.  Philippe Cambie, who lives some 25 miles away in Chateauneuf du Pape, was looking for an organic estate in Cotes du Ventoux.  Having met at the right time he agreed and they begin to work together.   Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier have three children who also help with the estate Daniel, Eva, and Aline, whom I met.

Today the Chateau Juvenal and Alban estates contain four hectares of olive trees and 20 hectares of vines which are farmed organically.  The olive grove contains more than 500 trees of the Aglandau and Verdale Carpentras varieties.  Some of these trees survived the devastating frost of 1958 and are now more than 300 years old.  The olive trees planted for the development of the 1870 park are no longer in the original locations and were probably moved.  The olive grove has been classified for the production of AOC Provence olive oil since 2007. Many different old trees survive on the estate.  Of the conifers the Blue Atlas Cedar, originally from Atlas Mountain of Algeria, is protected by law and may not be cut down. These Blue Atlas Cedars are amongst the oldest in France.  Joining them in protection are the enormous oak trees.

View of the Olive Trees From the Vineyard. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

View of the Olive Trees From the Vineyard. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

The vines are planted on a clay and limestone gravel pit located on the southern foothills of Graveyron.  The oldest vines are from the original planting in the 1950s with an average age of 40 years.  Thus the majority of the vines date to when Jean-Claude and Mireille managed both of the estates.  The oldest vines are typically Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah with the younger vines being Mourvedre, Clairette, Viognier, and Muscat.  Grenache is typically located on pebbly and well drained soils with Syrah on muddier ground supported by pebbles.

Sick and dead vines are actively replaced.  Sébastien and his team look to limit yield and respect nature.  The Grenache vines are en goblot with the other varietals trained.  Grass is grown between the rows of vines for several reasons.  It forces the vines to grow deeper roots where there are more earthworms aerating the soil and microorganisms.  It also improves drainage by allowing the water to penetrate into the ground instead of running off on the surface.  It also provides a home for predator insects which eat insects that are bad for the vines.  The grass is mown as needed.

Parcels for La Terre du Petit  Homme. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Parcels for La Terre du Petit Homme. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

In the winter Sébastien cuts the vines with yield in mind, in the spring he debuds and tops with sap in mind, and in the summer he removes misplaced clusters and thins to let in light.  The fruit is harvested by hand on a parcel by parcel basis over several weeks.  The harvest dates are selected under Philippe Cambie’s watch.  All sorting takes place in the vineyard.  Once the fruit from a parcel is harvested it is immediately cooled in the winery.  Fruit for the white and red wines are cooled for 48 hours.  The fruit is then destemmed and put in a pneumatic press for two to three hours.  It is then run into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with each tank representing a single parcel.  The tanks destined for red wine see a long maceration with pump-over and delestage twice a day for one month.  Malolactic fermentation is avoided for the white and rosé wines by using sulfites.  For the red wines malolactic fermentation begins naturally at the end the winter.  Wood is used in the form of French oak barriques.

Alex Hand Harvesting. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Alex Hand Harvesting. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Several different cuvees of wine are produced.  There are white, rosé, and red wines made under Ribes du Vallat.  These wines are produced using parcels located on the Ribes “slopes” bordering the Vallat “ditch” which passes through the vineyards marking the junction between the two estates.  There is a red wine made under Le Terre du Petit Homme.  This wine is produced using fruit from parcels which, according to legend, were visited by a little man with a little black dog who could find truffles like no other dog.  These parcels are located at the upper part of the estate.  Lastly, there is the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.  The assemblies for these cuvees are defined through a selection based on plots and a winter tasting of each tank by Philippe Cambie.

Sebastien Working in the Winery. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

Sebastien Working in the Winery. Image from Ch. Juvenal.

I tasted both of these wines over several days and felt that they showed best after being open for two days.  These wines should be left in the cellar for a year or two and I do agree with Aline’s view that they will be at their optimum in three or four years.  While my preference leans towards the savory La Terre du Petit Homme I remain fascinated by the overall quality of the inaugural vintage.  Aline reports that the 2012 vintage was similar to 2011 and that the wines might become even better.  I certainly am curious to taste the next vintage and perhaps after reading this post, you will too.  The wines of Chateau Juvenal are imported into the United States by Eric Solomon.


2011 Chateau Juvenal, Les Rives du Vallat, Ventoux
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Carignan, and 25% Syrah aged for nine months on the lees in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 15.5%.  The color was a light to medium grapey red.  The nose revealed grapey aromas of red fruit. In the mouth there was vibrant but ripe red fruit on the tip of the tongue.  The wine became expansive in the middle with power to the black, pungent flavors.  There was a strong finish with ripe spices and tang on the back of the tongue.  After extensive air the wine became better integrated, maintaining both power and concentration, and developing expansive powdery texture which coated the inside of the lips.  *** 2015-2019.


2011 Chateau Juvenal, La Terre du Petit Homme, Ventoux
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah with the Grenache aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks and the Syrah in French oak barrels for 12 months before combined aging for one month.  Alcohol 15.5%.  The color was a light to medium purple ruby.  The nose was a little more pungent.  It showed blue fruit with lots of flavor then blacker fruit in the finish.  The wine was savory with texture and ripe, pebbly tannins which coated the mouth.  With extensive air it showed more power and a more tannic structure framing the fresh fruit.  The aftertaste exhibited a wild nature on the back of the throat. *** 2015-2023.


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