Winemaking in France: From London to a winery in Drome

PUBLISHED: 14:55 29 December 2020

Wine made at Domaine l'Ancienne École

Wine made at Domaine l’Ancienne École

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Anna and Wilson Thorburn run Domaine l’Ancienne École in Drôme, an natural vineyard with three gîtes which take pleasure in panoramic views of Mont Ventoux



What have been you doing earlier than you moved to France and what prompted you to make the transfer?

The previous couple of years we lived within the UK, I had been doing a little part-time authorized work (I labored full-time as a solicitor earlier than I had my third youngster) and my husband was nonetheless a full-time lawyer.

We had usually thought of leaving the strain of working within the metropolis and residing within the south-east of the UK and wine was one thing we each appreciated. We additionally had household in France and having lived there as a baby I converse fluent French, so France was the plain selection.

We have been additionally aware from watching TV programmes about transferring overseas, that the youthful the kids, the simpler it might be for them.  

The Domaine l'Ancienne École estate in Vinsobres (c) Indra Van RegemorterThe Domaine l’Ancienne École property in Vinsobres (c) Indra Van Regemorter

What attracted you to Drôme?

Though we had lengthy dreamed of creating wine, we weren’t initially set on Drôme, however appeared over fairly a large space over an 18-month interval.

Nonetheless, a few of the locations additional west (in Languedoc) simply didn’t really feel proper, even when on paper they met our standards and we already knew the Nyons space from having ‘found’ it accidentally on a vacation years earlier than (thank goodness for déviations).

It’s onerous to explain what makes the world so interesting, however a part of it’s the local weather, caught between the total warmth of southern Provence and the cool of the Alps.

Les Pré-Alpes, a two-person apartment (c) Indra Van RegemorterLes Pré-Alpes, a two-person condo (c) Indra Van Regemorter

Did you discover it straightforward to discover a appropriate property?

After we noticed what’s now Domaine l’Ancienne École, about 18 months into our search, we fell in love with the views and its proximity to Nyons, in addition to the winemaking potential of getting land throughout the space for AOC Vinsobres.

We purchased the land and buildings and farmed remotely for 2 years (not one thing I’d actually suggest) whereas we began the primary of many constructing renovations. I lastly moved right here full-time with the kids in 2009, so my first classic ‘on web site’ was top-of-the-line vintages the world had had in years and first winter was the coldest and snowiest for 30 years.

Since then we now have carried out three extra units of renovations/constructing tasks and moved across the buildings twice. The primary transfer got here in the summertime of 2011, to vacate what grew to become our first two vacation leases. After one more tranche of refurbishment, we stopped utilizing what’s now our third gîte in 2016.

Anna and Wilson Thorburn moved from the south-east of England to a vineyard in DrômeAnna and Wilson Thorburn moved from the south-east of England to a winery in Drôme

What do you most take pleasure in about residing in Vinsobres?

After we moved to France, we weren’t on the lookout for an expatriate group, however wished to be a part of ‘regular’ village life and Vinsobres positively offered that. The kids initially went to the village major faculty (secondary colleges imply a bus journey to Nyons) because of which we met a lot of our mates and I additionally grew to become concerned with the organisation chargeable for the AOC Vinsobres wines. The Vinsobrais welcomed us with open arms. Vinsobres could also be a small village however it has grand views. Dwelling and dealing in its fantastic surroundings is unquestionably one of the best side of our life. As one in every of my vigneron mates stated, typically you simply should lookup from the job in hand and take within the surroundings, not take it as a right.   

What’s it like all through the seasons?

From my perspective, one of the best occasions of yr are spring and autumn: not too scorching, not too chilly and (normally) not too moist, so it’s a good time of yr for lengthy nation walks.

A picnic table with a view of vines and lavender (c) Indra Van RegemorterA picnic desk with a view of vines and lavender (c) Indra Van Regemorter

Summer time can get a bit scorching, however being out of the village at 400m altitude, it’s uncommon for the warmth to construct up for an entire season and the nights are cooler than on the town. Winter could be chilly, however on a transparent sunny day, shielded from any Mistral that is perhaps blowing, it’s usually doable to take a seat outdoors in shirt sleeves for lunch (or certainly for pre-Christmas drinks) as there may be heat within the solar’s rays.

What do your friends most take pleasure in in regards to the location?

Though we and a few of our friends prefer to discover on foot, many others take pleasure in biking: some stick with us particularly as a result of we’re inside hanging distance of Mont Ventoux.

Some simply need peace and quiet with wonderful views, surrounded by vines and lavender. But others uncover that we’re completely positioned between the Northern and Southern Rhône vineyards, to allow them to use us as a base for exploring all that the Rhône valley has to supply when it comes to wines. In fact, they don’t should go wherever in any respect to style wine, they will do it proper right here. We all the time supply wine tastings to our friends. Tastings are additionally obtainable throughout our open season for wine gross sales and by prior appointment within the off season.

Lunch is served (c) Indra Van RegemorterLunch is served (c) Indra Van Regemorter

Which wine is your favorite?

Nicely in the summertime it’s onerous to beat a relaxing glass of our rosé, however within the winter, over a weekend lunch with household or mates I prefer to open a bottle of our L’Essentiel – it’s a typical AOC Vinsobres: fruity, barely spicy, with depth of flavour and color.

Is there any side of residing in Drôme that shocked you?

One of many surprises about residing in Drôme Provençale has been the truth that you may ski in winter. We anticipated solar and warmth, however not that the closest small resorts are underneath two hours’ drive away.

One other shock (to me a minimum of) was its historical past of Resistance. The Vercors could be very pleased with its harbouring of Resistance fighters through the Second World Conflict, however actually it was constructing on a protracted custom: Drôme was a Protestant stronghold at numerous occasions throughout France’s wars of faith.

Actually, Vinsobres has each a ‘temple’ (Protestant) and an ‘église’ (Catholic). The denominations have swapped over time relying on which religion wanted the larger constructing.

What recommendation would you give to expats considering of operating a vineyard in France?

One of the best recommendation is to do your analysis fastidiously. There are a lot of guidelines and laws governing the way you make wine (grape varieties, vinification strategies), what you may name it (AOC, Vin de Pays, Vin de France), what data the Douanes (Customs & Excise) count on you to offer and when you need to present it.

Wine is an alcohol and a proud a part of France’s agricultural heritage, each these components imply that it’s not carte blanche for planting vines and making wine. Use a good specialist winery agent to your search and they need to be capable of both assist you to with the fundamentals or put you in contact with somebody who can.

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