Words of winemakers
Frédéric ROMERO – Domaine la Soumade
The Roméros are nothing if not loyal.
Loyal to the vines which once belonged to their paternal grandmother, some of which have reached the grand old age of 100, and which they tend with care; loyal to the clay-rich terroir which gives such powerful wines and whose soils they lovingly till to restore balance and life; and loyal to the appellation’s top grape variety, Grenache Noir, increasing planting density from 4,000 to 6,000 vines per hectare to improve yield control and enhance quality.
At the age of 39, Frédéric Roméro manages the Domaine alongside his father André. Keeping it in the family.
The UK – still our top market
“What makes us stand out? We were one of the first wineries in Rasteau to export our wines. In the 1990s we started selling to England, and the UK is still our leading market.”
At the time, Frédéric was not convinced that wine was his calling. He was more interested in mechanics and motorbikes; vineyards and wine came later. But it can be difficult to turn your back on your family! The Domaine had been established in 1979 by Frédéric’s father André, who inherited the vineyards from his mother. After harvesting, the grapes were taken to the cooperative winery; but André resolved to make his own wines and focus on in-bottle sales. At that time, La Soumade measured just 15 hectares. Today this has almost doubled. “We did everything slowly, and we did it together. We made our own choices and ploughed our own furrow.” Put like that, Frédéric makes it sound easy. But he’s not the type to boast. “You know,” he says, “in this line of work you’re always learning. And there’s a lot to learn, especially in the first few years!”
Inspiration from Bordeaux
After his studies at the Lycée Viticole (viticultural school) and his first harvests as a winegrower in 1996, Frédéric devoted himself wholeheartedly to
following in the family footsteps. He learned on the job, travelling widely to observe winegrowing practice, in other regions such as Bordeaux, and bringing back plenty of ideas.
“My travels helped me to appreciate what viticulture really is, and to understand various issues, for example the effects of planting density or foliar surface on the quality of the grape,” he says. Each trip also served to remind Frédéric how much he loved his own village and terroir. “Grenache is my favourite varietal,” he says. “It’s the most appealing, for both elegance and
flavour. Frédéric’s Grenache is grown responsibly on the clay- rich soils of Chaberte, Villeneuve and Saint-Didier (named for the village church). It produces powerful wines after 3 weeks of traditional maceration, a method well-suited to the terroir. The wines have excellent ageing potential and appeal to a growing number of French wine drinkers. One of Frédéric’s aims over the next few years is to increase market share in France, particularly in the retail and food service sectors.