The French AOC system isn't known for its flexibility. But in the case of Clos Cibonne, the Cotes de Provence AOC was compelled to make an exception. This from US importer De Maison Selections:
The heart of the [Clos Cibonne] estate is their Tibouren. André Roux was a great fan of this native varietal and believed it to be the ideal grape for the region. As part of his revitalization he replaced all of the estate’s Mourvèdre with Tibouren. Clos Cibonne soon became synonymous with Tibouren and received special permission from the A.O.C. to list the grape on its labels.
This happened in the mid-1930s. The estate soon became famous for its rosé, and as such synonymous with Tibouren. Then in the 1980s the property fell into a state of disrepair, only to recover in the late-90s under the leadership of André Roux's granddaughter Brigitte. Today the wine has returned to its full splendor. The rosé is more famous, partly for its history, but the red is masterful in its own right and deserves every bit as much attention. We only got in a single case of this wine, which is fine and rare. So if you're in the mood for an approachable, beautifully wrought, lighter-style red with complex aromas and flavors ranging from crushed berries to spicy garrigue, don't miss this gem.
A Note About the Farming
They call it la lutte raisonée, which translates roughly from the French to "the reasoned struggle." What does that mean? Well it's a rough translation, one of those phrases whose essence can never quite be captured in a second tongue, but the idea is that it's a middle ground between the heavy use of industrial chemicals that sprang up in viticulture in the 1950s and the more conscientious (but much more vulnerable) practices that include organic and biodynamic farming. It's somewhere in between, not subject to the strictures of the certifying organizations but also able to make autonomous decisions as to when or how to treat for mold, pests and weeds. Cover crops are common, as are grazing animals, and at least theoretically the use of sprays and chemicals is sparing at most. Here is what the importer Kermit Lynch has to say:
Some farmers work through certifying agencies such as Terra Vitis, following a specific set of specifications and requirements. Others farm independently, following organic methodologies, and reserving treatments only when conditions are optimal (for example, when there is no wind). Zoologists have introduced more environmentally-friendly concepts such as integrated pest management, or hormone confusion, which prevents the reproduction of certain pests that may threaten the vines.
The struggles to become certified as Organic or Biodynamic are multi-faceted. Financial concerns are primary, as many of the small vignerons who care to practice this sort of farming also don't have spare funds for frivolous label enhancers. Also, as blogger Le Dom du Vin puts it:
One of the reasons why it is so difficult for a producer to certified Organic or Biodynamic: if your entire vineyard is fully Organic or Biodynamic but your immediate neighbor's vineyards isn't, you'll probably never be able to be certified. Moreover, if your neighbor uses pesticides and herbicides, you can't forget about it, because the wind may blow some chemicals in your vineyard and depending on the terrain, chemicals absorbed by the ground may drain or affected your soil too.
In the end, is the wine good or not? In the case of Clos Cibonne, they do what's best for their vines and they make some of the most expressive and individualistic wines in the world. The Tibouren rouge is in stock now.
Clos Cibonne Cotes de Provence Tibouren rouge — $25