Wines and Modern Art: the two passions of a billionaire revolutionize Chateau La Coste – Meanderings through France
The vines of Chateau La Coste
If French people see more and more vineyards, even prestigious ones, being bought by Chinese businessmen with mixed feelings of incredulity and helplessness there are good counter-examples to reconcile them with foreign owners. There are new owners who truly love making their own wines and don’t take it as a mere hobby or a good investment. Such is Chateau La Coste a big estate set in the beautiful Provence “Coteaux d’Aix” area. When the Irish billionaire Patrick Mc Killen bought it in 2003 Chateau La Coste was since the 1960’s one of those many vineyards making huge quantities of low quality wine as was the common way in Southern France for decades. In those days when buying a “Rosé de Provence” chances were that you would get a cheap plonk! But people got tired of drinking it and a new generation of winemakers got tired of making it. Why spoil a real good “terroir” combining both soils made to grow vines and a wonderful climate?
Time and hard work were in need to make those revolutionary changes but they paid off. In Chateau La Coste some vines were grubbed up, others were replanted and little by little the soil bioremediation was implemented and completed. Since 2013 the estate is totally organic. Biodynamic cultivation was introduced by Mathieu Cosse a highly skilled winemaker who also makes wines in the Cahors area. Ultramodern cellars with state-of-the-art wine making tools were built by Jean Nouvel the internationally known French architect, to make a wide range of fruity white, rosé and red wines.
Visiting the Chateau La Coste is a unique experience for the five senses. Since the beginning Patrick Mac Killen intended to offer to contemporary artists unusual settings for their works. If you are welcomed in the estate by two works of departed artists one of Louise Bourgeois’ big spider and a mobile by Alexander Calder all the other artists were invited to come to Chateau La Coste, choose a place of their liking and create a work of art to fit into the beautiful landscape. A two hours walk through the vineyards will allow you to discover the art centre designed by Tadao Ando looking as if floating over the infinity pool of water, a Pavilion de Musique by Frank O. Gehry where live shows take place in summertime, a Meditation Bell by Paul Matisse looking like a big Japanese Torii that you can make vibrate and sing by pulling a thick rope, a big reflecting metallic “bubble” looking like a flying saucer by Tom Shannon that you can spin around its eccentric axis or a high needle by Hiroshi Sugimoto designed according to a mathematical function…
And of course you can visit the modernist cellars designed by Jean Nouvel. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays you can follow an English speaking guided tour that will introduce you to the wine making process. A wine tasting will end your visit and of course you will be able to buy wines among the wide range of red, rosé and white wines.
Set on a gently sloping land you can also visit the vegetable garden and its ingenious
irrigation system. Aromatic herbs, vegetables and flowers grow next to an orchard where almonds, peaches, plums or cherries ripen under the hot Provencal sun. You will be able to taste these fruits and vegetables in the two restaurants of the estate. You can have a quick lunch in the shade of the pergola at “La Terrasse” an outdoor restaurant next to the shop. Salads, cold soups, homemade salted and sweet tarts, delicatessen, cheeses and of course wines from the estate are served on colourful tables and in summertime live music will liven up your meal. For a gastronomic meal go to the “Café Tadao Ando” located in one of the two wings of the art centre designed by Tadao Ando in 2011. Sitting in the refined style dinning room you will have a wonderful view over the infinity pool of water and the vineyards. To nicely end your meal make sure to save room for dessert: there are all homemade and very tempting!
To visit Chateau La Coste is an uncommon experience combining many pleasures. In just a few years its owner succeeded to create this unique mix of art, culture and wine in a beautiful area. Next year a luxury hotel will open and welcome lucky guests for another original stay.
Chateau La Coste: 2750 Route de la Cride, 13610 Le Puy Sainte Reparade
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny