Château Roubine, from whence the rosé I am drinking comes, is built atop Knights Templar property. In the center of Provence, in the heart of the department of the Var, in the town of Lorgues, lie these vineyards on land once owned by the (in) famous medieval order of the Knights Templar.
More on Château Roubine’s refreshing rosé to come, but right now I want to pursue the Knights Templar. This once powerful military order, formed in 1119 and sanctioned by the Catholic church in 1129, is back in the popular press with the recent release of Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno. Knights Templar lore played a pivotal role in Brown’s earlier blockbuster book, The Da Vinci Code, and is relevant to his current book because it draws upon the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, entitled “Inferno,” which is said to have been inspired, in part, by the persecution of the Knights Templar.
In 1314, The Grand Master of the Templars and several other officers were burned alive at the stake in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Legend has it that, as the flames rose up around Grand Master Jacques de Molay, he shouted out to Pope Clement and King Philip that “God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.” Both men died within the year.
In 2001, documents in the Vatican were discovered that revealed that Pope Clement had been pressured to support the King (who was apparently a relative). Dated 1308 and known as the “Chinon Parchment,” it stated that the Pope had absolved the Templars of the charges. Another 1308 Chinon Parchment, known about as early as 1693, said that all the Templars who falsely confessed to the fabricated charges were “restored to the Sacraments and to the unity of the Church.” Today, the Roman Catholic Church, states that the persecution was unjust.
The demise of Knights Templar, coupled with the “dispersion” their huge cache of treasures and money naturally set the stage for the legends that ensued, most notably their alleged possession of the Holy Grail and the existence of a secret society that some say has prevailed to this day.
Dan Brown, of course, is not the only author to spin tales about the Knights Templar. Ivanhoe and Foucault’s Pendulum are two other well-known novels and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and National Treasure are two well-known movies.
Château Roubine does not need to spin tales to capture to the imagination of those who try their rosé. As one of the oldest wineries in France, the château rests on the land once owned by the Knights Templar. In 1307, as the Order was being dissolved, the château was given to the Order of Saint Jean of Jerusalem. Because the property is not far from the Roman road, Julian Way, it is likely that vineyards were there much earlier than the 14th century. Today, the château is owned by French fencing champion Philippe Riboud and his wife Valérie Rousselle who oversees the wine production.
The rosé I am enjoying is part of the winery’s Cuvée Classique line, described on their website as “a typical Provençal wine at [once] light and fruity it is perfectly suited to Mediterranean cooking.” I found it very light, crisp and refreshing with maybe hints of citrus and would have to agree that it would go well with Provençal cuisine—I had a hankering for Bouillabaisse as I sipped it.
This wine is made from seven grape varieties – Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Tibouren, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. This 2011 rosé recently received a silver medal in the Concours Général Agricole 2012 tasting. It is a real treat. The average price is around $19 for the handsome bottle that bears an attractive insignia inspired by the Templar coat of arms and includes a dragon (to represent the nearby city of Draguignan) a lion (to represent Lorgues), and the sun’s rays (to represent Provence).
Château Roubine produces two other AOC rosés that good friend Pamela O’Neill tried on a recent visit to the winery. Although the other two rosés are considered to be finer wines (as reflected in their prices), Pamela preferred the Cuvée Classique.
This winery also produces three lines of red and white wines, some of which we got to try at the “Provence in the City 2013” rosé wine tasting in New York City. Sponsored by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence/Provence Wine Council, it was a sensational tasting of Provence rosés.
Like a good book, a good wine can transport one to other places and times, without ever leaving the chair. I wonder if Dan Brown’s new book will be as beguiling.
A special thank you to Pamela O’Neill for her photography of Château Roubine