When PVB commented on a restaurant mentioned in “The Marseille Caper,” a few readers inquired about the background of Allen Chevalier, the object of Peter Mayle’s unavoidably poignant dedication:
“To the loving memory of Allen Chevalier,
A good friend who made lovely wine”
In his novel “A Good Year” (2004), Mr. Mayle acknowledged Allen Chevalier for his “advice of an alcoholic nature.”
Lourmarin was their ‘territoire de rencontre,’ a mild irony came calling in that the wine lover and the wine maker shared a first career in advertising before they relocated to the Luberon to live out their ‘vraies passions.’
In 1990, Allen and Marie-Laure Chevalier sold their home in Versailles and moved to Lourmarin where they purchased a 16th-century estate and vineyard, the Château Constantin, a gorgeous site of rolling hills and verdant vistas covering more than 100 acres of vines, olive groves and oak forests. On the western border of the vineyard, the L’Aigue Brun river deposited on its edges a thick carpet of round stones similar to those found in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Embarking on a complete makeover of the vineyard and installing modern equipment, M. Chevalier introduced his first vintage of a rebranded Château Constantin-Chevalier vinified from the 1991 harvest. With fierce passion and joy manifest, Allen Chavalier came to produce through twenty years some of the richest vintages in the AOC Luberon until his passing in August, 2011.
By 1996 the celebrity-drenched (2 books) Peter Mayle had fled his Ménerbes home in the Luberon for the chic environs of the Hamptons. Upon his return to the region in 2000, he took up residence along with his wife and their dogs in an 18th-century bastide – a 14-acre estate – on the edge of Lourmarin (now sold).
The Château Constantin-Chevalier borders the upscale sleepover Les Olivettes, run by Joseph and Elizabeth DeLiso, an American and a Brit respectively, who are among Mayles’ retinue of friends in the Luberon and huge fans of the Château’s wines.
Within your wine mind, there are moments when the first taste of a vintage is riveted in imperishable memory. One of those flashes of terrible precision arrived in August, 2008, when PVB escorted some posh friends from London to Lourmarin.
As evening approached and with kids to feed, we took a sidewalk table at the Pizza Nonni. A local wine was in order; a red was selected. At first sip came the bracing sensation of enriched pleasure which reawakened some childlike part of your brain. And so began an indissoluble relationship with the wines of Château Constantin-Chevalier.
Peter Mayle must have arrived at a similar moment of terrible precision, for he has often cited the Château Constantin-Chevalier among his favored wineries and the Château’s rosé as his preferred tipple, and, alas, his long friendship with Allen underpinned by a love of wine.
The Château Constantin-Chevalier produces three red vintages, two white and two rosés. Grape varieties are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre for the Reds; Ugni-Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Vermentino for the Whites. The Cuvée des Fondateurs, aged in oak barrels for a year, is an exceptional red – rich texture and deep flavors. The ‘bleed’ Rosé, known as rosé d’une nuit, is an aromatic and perky drink; likewise the paler Rosé Pétale de Rose.
AOC Luberon: 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Carignan.
AOC Luberon Cuvée des Fundateurs: 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Carignan.
AOC Luberon Rosé d’une Nuit: 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Saignée.
AOC Luberon Rosé Pétale de Rose: 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Saignée.
AOC Luberon Blanc: 65% Vermentino, 15% Clairette and 20% Ugni Blanc.
AOC Luberon Blanc Cuvée des Fundateurs: 60% Vermentino, 15% Clairette, 15% Ugni Blanc and 10% Roussanne.
Château Constantin-Chevalier: Route Jas de Puyvert (D139) 84160 Lourmarin, Find Lourmarin’s only petrol station (Shell). From the station, follow D27 in the direction of Lauris. At the fork (500m), take the road to the left (D139) towards Jas de Puyvert. Tel. 04 90 68 38 99
Les Olivettes: One might call it a B&B squared, more than a bed and more than a breakfast. The uniqueness of Les Olivettes, a luxuriously renovated Bastide on the fringe of Lourmarin, is that its six spacious apartments all have fully-equipped kitchens, freeing guests from the daily captivity of restaurants, although in Lourmarin, a culinary hotspot, the temptations for fine dining abound. A Provencal breakfast and other repasts are taken in your room or on your terrace per your leisurely schedule.
There is a dreamlike quality to Les Olivettes; it’s the kind of place that you would summon up in your imagination as the ideal tranquil Provencal holiday, and then the moment you arrive to its door, everything is in its place just as you imagined it.
Avenue Henri Bosco, 84160 Lourmarin, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website The property is south of the village; the road is also marked D27 in the direction of Lauris.
Pizzeria Nonni: serves tasty provencal-style pizza and other Italian fare in a cozy and warm interior on cools days or on warm summer evenings at quiet sidewalk tables nestled around the Fontaine la Cordière. A short walk up the slope of rue Henri de Savornin from the center of the village. Reservations for outdoor dining a must. Closed Mondays.
Address: 2, rue Albert Camus, Lourmarin, Tel 04 90 68 23 33