Domaine des Bernardins is a sixth generation family owned estate on the edge of the tiny village of Beaumes de Venise. The owners are Elisabeth Hall (the granddaughter of Louis Castaud) and her husband Andrew Hall. The area has been populated since the time of the cave dwelling peoples (the name "Beaumes" means caves) who came from the town of Venise which existed near Carpentras. The first Beaumes de Venises granted A.O.C. status was in 1945 with the 1943 vintage.
Andrew and Elisabeth Hall with their son Matthew
Like many of this region's villages, Beaumes de Venise has been producing wine since Roman times but is unique for the production of 'vin doux ' sweet fortified wine. Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) wrote: "Muscat has been grown for a long time in Balme and makes wonderful wine." Since then the story of Muscat de Beaumes continued to be told: the home of Muscat was supplier to Pope Clement V in Avignon and then the entire kingdom's nobility, including Henry IV who had a taste for Muscat.
A family estate for five generations, we still have one bottle of 1847 Muscat that demonstrates just how old it is. We started making wine at the beginning of the 19th Century at Domaine des Bernardins. The property was previously owned by Bernardin monks before being transformed into a wine estate. Mr Louis Castaud was the first one to show real concern about how the village's traditional production had almost disappeared and achieved appellation status for Muscat de Beaumes de Venise in 1945 after 10 years of hard work. His family were able to make Domaine des Bernardins thrive by combining know-how and traditional values. Today his daughter Renée Castaud is still active in day-to-day life at the estate. His granddaughter Elisabeth, her husband Andrew Hall and their son Romain now make this wine that's part of the family history.
The vineyards consist of 22 hectares (54.34 acres) in total, 15 hectares of Muscat (which yields 30 hl/ha) and 7 hectares of red grapes (Syrah and Cinsault) for Côtes du Rhône Rouge production.
The viticulture is essentially done by hand. Five people work full-time in the vineyards. They are supplemented by seasonal employees who work during bunch thinning and the harvest in order to bring out the very best in our vines. Working by hand and the attention each vine gets are fundamental. Pruning, de-budding, trellising, leaf removal and picking are thus carried out by hand with the utmost care. We prepare the soil by using good old-fashioned ploughing. Organic compost is made from grape marc (the discarded stalks and skins). We use and abide by countrywide standards for 'sustainable agriculture'.
As a way of protecting the plants, we only use phytosanitary products when necessary and within strict guidelines by staggering the treatments appropriately, to minimise the amount of chemicals used. We prefer to use as much as possible manual and organic techniques . Leaving natural grass cover, removing buds and leaves from the vines, preserving biodiversity around the vineyard: olive, almond and cypress trees, wild rosemary and capers.
In the spirit of respecting traditional techniques and the best elements of modern technology, cellar manager Andrew Hall and his winemaker son Romain Hall take family traditions very seriously.