Imagine packing your bags, booking yourself a one way ticket and leaving your crazy London life behind you to fulfil your dreams. That was exactly what Jeany and Stephen Cronk did just over 10 years ago: Stephen had dreams of making rosé wine in the heart of Provence and couldn’t get the desire out of his mind, so they put their life in London on hold and took to the rolling hills of Cotignac. We had the pleasure of visiting and being welcomed into the life of Mirabeau wine recently, we enjoyed relaxed afternoons in their beautiful home with the Cronk family, took to the cobbled streets of Cotignac and of course, sipped on copious amounts of Mirabeau rosé.
M I R A B E A U
To give you a little background on Mirabeau, it’s a rosé brand created by Stephen & Jeany Cronk. Their first ever wine created was the Classic rosé (still their best seller to date!). The Classic is a wine they wanted to encompass and communicate the true meaning of rosé provencal – light, crisp and fresh. My favourite quote of theirs is “rosé is a white-lovers red and a red-lovers white.” It is so true! I used to be a white wine drinker, but find after a few glasses now it’s a little too acidic on my stomach. I do love a glass of crisp white wine on a hot summer’s day, however I found I could enjoy a few extra glasses of rosé without having those effects. Maybe I’ve found my summer alternative when red is just a little too heavy!
The interesting thing about rosé is how it is made. Rosé wine does come from the red grape, but the skin of the grape is left in contact with the juices for only a short amount of time to give the final product only a hint of red. The grapes must be picked at night while the air is still cool and left in contact only a few hours. Missing that window of time results in too much colour extraction and an irreversible colour change in the wine. Consequently, this part of the process is highly important to allow them to achieve their perfect blush pink tone to their wine. In addition to colour, the grape skin adds tannin and flavour to the wine, loved so much by the French that rosé is actually drunk more than white wine in France!
The Mirabeau team use a number of different grape varieties in their rosé (Syrah, Grenache amongst others), working with an exceptional wine blending expert from the Cabinet D’Agronomie Provencale to help them create the perfect blends for their wine. Their collection now boasts four different rosé varieties, from the La Folie sparkling rosé (which I think will be the next big thing… I’m sure next summer we will see sparkling rosé popups in London!!) to their peachy Etoile, another delightfully fresh tipple in a wonderfully shaped bottle. Their Classic, Pure and Etoile wines can be purchased at most Waitrose and Sainsbury’s all over the UK, with their La Folie hopefully joining the gang very soon!
All of their wines can be paired with food and they say the best food for it to be paired with would be light and fresh meals such as fish and vegetable based recipes, bringing me onto the next part of our little Mirabeau escapade… spending the afternoon in the Cronk’s beautiful Provencal house, sampling their rosé and having a storm cooked up by talented chefs Katie and Safia of Cook & Baker…
T H E C R O N K S A B O D E
We had a few days of mixed weather while we were in Cotignac but lucky for us the sun decided to show its face just as we were due to enjoy a lunch “en plein air”. As you can probably tell from the pictures to follow, the Cronk’s villa is straight out of an interiors magazine. They built it from scratch two years ago and I couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful details found in every corner of the house. Jeany, who is very much the creative mind behind the brand, designed all of the interiors herself and I must say I was envious. I re-did my kitchen last year and that felt like the most impossible feat there could be, I couldn’t imagine designing all the nooks and crannies of an entire house… from scratch!!!! What an achievement.
Living in Provence, as you might expect, is mostly spent living outdoors. They have a beautiful kitchen garden where they grow much of the produce they use to cook in their home, it felt so pure being able to pick herbs that would be sprinkled straight onto your plate of food.. so far away from the packaged convenience food life we live in London (well, it’s not to say we don’t have some of the best food in the world, we just definitely don’t have much time – or space – to grow and enjoy our own produce!). We also got given a tour of the little farm animals that live on their land, by their sweet and energetic son George, who was the life of the party whilst we were there! To me these things represented the pure and serene life you can live somewhere like Cotignac. Yes, you leave behind the fun hustle and bustle of London, but what makes up for it is how close you get to live to nature, be at one with the seasons and the beautiful world that surrounds you. And that was something I think was also felt by chefs Katie and Safia who had had a field day at the local market, they cooked some of the most delicious food I think I have ever eaten!
As I mentioned above, rosé is best enjoyed with fresh and light food, both veggie and fish, which is exactly what the chefs rustled up for us. My dream food is fresh vegetables, lightly seasoned, with a bit of crunchy bread thrown on the side and a crisp glass of wine. The colours of the tomatoes were just unreal, and the taste of everything we munched on – we were all in awe. Everyone in our lovely group, including Niki who organised the trip, worked together to lay the most beautiful table – it was hard to go wrong with all the amazing trinkets Jeany had dotted around the house. We could have been out there shooting all day given all the props we had at hand. Finally, it was the moment to sit down and enjoy the food and wine we had been so looking forward to. The main course of the day was fresh fish bought by the girls at the local market in Cotignac and it was beyond amazing – so light, just cooked very simply with herbs and lemon – the best way in my opinion… topped off of course with a glass of rosé from the magnum they opened for us to enjoy throughout the afternoon…
C O T I G N A C
This brings me onto the final chapter of the Mirabeau tale, the last part in the puzzle: the beautiful town of Cotignac they now call home. When we asked Stephen how they ended up in Cotignac he said two words… Brad Pitt. He has been a die hard fan of Brad for so many years that it brought him here…. hehehe just kidding! When they were looking for the perfect provencal spot to set up wine camp they were recommended Cotignac, an idyllic, cobbled stone town, only around the corner from one of the most famous rosé Chateau’s in the world: Chateau Miraval – owned now by Brad Pitt. Of course, it was the perfect location of Cotignac, in the heart of Provence, that drew them here… it just so happened that Brad and Angelina lived a few vineyards away!!
Cotignac really is exactly what you would imagine Provencal France to be. I fell head over heels for the winding streets, pastel buildings and quaint cafés. It’s a spot straight out of a story book and the perfect place to enjoy a night if you’re driving around the region. We visited the local market on our second day and it was a dream. It took me back to the first time I began to fall in love with travel photography, when I would take hundreds of photos at the local market, watching the hustle and bustle of people, photographing the fresh vegetables, admiring the pretty trinkets… There is so much to see at a market and it gives you that little insight into what the local specialities are, a little snapshot of the local culture. Milly, a dear friend and fellow blogger on the trip, has heritage in Provence and spends much of her summers here. We were talking about what fab things you can find on the market and she mentioned always buying espadrilles whenever she’s in the area for like €7! It was then that I went on the hunt for my own pair: a rainbow coloured pair for only €10 which I didn’t take off the entire trip!!! I love finding little gems like that, especially when you’re coming from London where everything is hyper expensive…
After roaming around the streets of Cotignac, snapping away like there was no tomorrow with my partner-in-crime Nathan and munching on fresh croissants from the local Boulangerie, we finished our Cotignac escapade at the Mirabeau shop located at the beginning of town. (Something to note about Cotignac, I stayed an extra couple of days to shoot at story for Sainsbury’s magazine, during which I had the time to climb to the top of the town and enjoy the amazing views – you must do this if you visit the town, it’s worth the hike!!)
It was such a pleasure to have chance to experience how this lovely family have grown the Mirabeau brand from zero to creating an award-winning rosé enjoyed by people all over the world. Stories like that give you hope that dreams really can come true – with a bit of hard work, some luck and a few glasses of rosé thrown in, truly anything can happen! Thank you to Cronk family for their wonderful hospitality on the trip and Niki at Sauce Communications for organising such a lovely escape. I’m all set on what I’ll be drinking this summer… rosé all the way! Now I just need to get my hands on one of their bottles… off to Waitrose it is!!
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