My journey to Martinelle
As far back as I can remember, the pleasure of tasting – the smells, the textures, the flavors – was a part of my life. At our family table there was always a bottle of wine, from which even as a child I was allowed a sip; that there was so much to discover in wine fascinated and inspired me.
After high school I attended a professional hotel school, where I received my best grades in the class “Drinks and Wine.” An internship in the Pfalz was a logical next step. My apprenticeship turned into a full-time position at Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, and then at the Nahe estate of Prinz Salm. After six years of German white wines however I felt something was lacking, so I made my way to the Rhône Valley, where I worked at various wineries – Marcel Richaud, Villeneuve, Cassan – while also attending a technical wine school in Hyères.
All this seemed to be pointing me in one clear direction – my own winery. In 2001, after months of searching, I discovered Martinelle. This extraordinary group of small vineyards, separated by the solid rock of the Dentelles de Montmirail from Gigondas and Vacqueyras, was exactly what I wanted. While Ventoux is not as famous as its neighbors, it has incredible potential – and I decided it was up to me to show what a winemaker could do here!
In the beginning, my “winery” was nothing but vineyards. But what an exciting challenge, to build from the ground up a complete, one-woman winemaking operation! Yet early on the going was hard. In 2002, my first vintage, torrential rains turned the harvest into a horrendous affair; in 2003, a freak summer hailstorm destroyed my entire crop.
I learned in a drastic way just how closely winemaking is linked to nature; this reality certainly makes us all a bit more humble. Yet what joy in 2004 to finally harvest and vinify healthy grapes! Since then, things have been positive: purchasing new equipment and new vineyards, replanting vines and realizing the dream of building my very own winery.
2001: Martinelle vineyard in Le Barroux purchased
2004: First “real” vintage, vinified in my first cellar, a converted industrial building
2005: First bottling of Ventoux red and rosé, some white. 1 ha of old-vine Grenache in Lafare purchased
2006: First bottling of my Vin de Table, “Le 5ème”
2007: Mourvèdre, Clairette and Counoise planted in Martinelle
2008: 2.85 ha of AOC Beaumes de Venise in La Roque Alric purchased
2009: The new cellar in Lafare completed. First bottling of Beaumes de Venise cru. Petite Serine planted in Martinelle
2011: Ten years of Domaine Martinelle!
2012: A new Grenache vineyard planted in Martinelle
Three wines, three terroirs
Ventoux: The “Martinelle” vineyard is a long, terraced slope with smaller plots surrounding it. The uppermost part is terraced and rocky, and is where most of my Grenache vines grow; the vines are naturally low yielding and always produce healthy, concentrated grapes, even in challenging years. In 2007 just below these terraces I planted Mourvèdre, Clairette and Counoise. The middle section, also dedicated to Grenache, has richer soils and produces grapes with rounder, juicier flavors. The lower part of the vineyard is rocky and poor, and is where my Syrah grows; in 2009 I planted a massal selection of Petite Serine from the northern Rhône.
Total area: 8.5 hectares
Altitude: 270-300 meters, facing east/southeast
Soils: limestone, clay and gypsum
Vines: Grenache (6 ha), Syrah and Petite Serine (1.5 ha), Mourvèdre (0.5 ha) and Cinsault, Carignan, Clairette, Counoise and some experimental southern varietals
Beaumes de Venise: The first thing that impressed me about the “Bramadou” vineyard the first time I saw it was the color of the soil. A rusty, orange-red color, “Bramadou” is pure Trias terroir and as such is unique in the Rhône Valley. Soils are very poor and shallow; however once the vines have established a good root system, they do not suffer during drought or heavy rains, as the soil is so porous. The vineyard forms a natural “clos” as it is surrounded by pine, oak and olive trees and perfumed naturally by the wild Provencal herbs that grow amid the vines.
Total area: 2.85 hectares
Altitude: 330 meters, facing east/southeast
Soils: pure Trias – decomposed limestone and chalk/gypsum, crystallized iron
Vines: Grenache (1.5 ha) and Syrah (0.5 ha)
Vin de Table: “La Font Valet” is located south of Lafare, and its deep soils contain high amounts of marl, which gives the landscape its gray color. I purchased one hectare of old-vine Grenache in 2005 with the goal of building my cellar here.
These 50-year-old Grenache vines produce very concentrated, small berries, full of southern sun and spice and very different in style than what is produced from Martinelle and Bramadou. This stylistic difference inspired me to create a special wine, my Vin de Table.
Total area: 0.6 hectares
Altitude: 160 meters, facing west
Soils: limestone – clay, gray marl
Ideas on winemaking
All my work follows a basic, yet complex principle. I work as naturally, and as natural, as possible; and from the start for me there was only one way of taking care of my vines, and that was organically. This early work I have now decided to make “official,” by applying for organic certification.
There is no grand, global recipe for this sort of work. Instead I believe that an individual approach to the natural state of each element that makes up my craft is of fundamental importance. The goal is to bring the earth, the vines and the natural environment into the greatest possible harmony in order to create the finest, most individual and authentic wines. Natural farming methods support biodiversity in the vineyard. The absence of herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fungicides goes without saying.
The vineyard is the key to a quality wine. I therefore attach great importance to bringing out the characteristics of my vineyards, so that this character can be tasted. Here, the harmonious balance between man and nature is particularly important.
The harvest generally takes place in mid- to late September, often starting with Syrah and finishing with Mourvèdre, which takes us through the beginning of October. We harvest exclusively by hand, and when necessary, we sort in the vineyard to ensure only perfectly ripe, healthy grapes make their way into the vats.
The winemaking process is also as gentle as possible. The situation of cellar is such that the grapes are fed into cement vats by gravity; and since a large portion of the cellar is underground, there is no need for air conditioning, as it is naturally cool even in the hot summer months.
I do not believe in fancy technology or in using any kind of additives in my wines. Both the character of each vineyard and of the grapes dictated by each vintage guide me in the winemaking process. The overall idea is to find the right balance between intervention and “laissez-faire,” of logic and intuition, of supervision and trust that is crucial in the very dynamic process of turning grapes into wine.
What others say about Martinelle
“Corinna Faravel creates a charming wine from the Ventoux appellation. A domaine that confirms its commanding position in the great vintage of 2009, and a wine full of richness and power. A very nice bottle, perfect for the table.”
V comme Vin, Caviste in Apt, France
“Be warned: Martinelle is not your typical Ventoux! The wines are perfumed and elegant and have much more intensity and depth than what may be considered 'typical.' Perhaps that is a fault of the French appellation system, which leads you to expect this or that. For those with an open mind, and attentive to the finer qualities of wine, this is a great example of Southern Rhône wine at a great price.”
The Vine Ltd., Importer in Tokyo, Japan
“If you‘re looking for punch-in-the-arm, peppery wines, you've come to the right place. Our latest discovery in the southern Rhône is Corinna Faravel, an artisanal winemaker who makes full-bodied, sumptuous red blends in some of the south's finest, as-yet-undiscovered vineyards.”
North Berkeley Wine, Importer in Berkeley, California
“Corinna Faravel has established herself among the young talents of the region, with her wines that are both savory and generous. The vines, in AOC Beaumes de Venise and AOC Ventoux, are situated in the communes of Barroux and Suzette amid beautiful surroundings. The 2009 vintage saw the first vinification in Corinna’s new cellar, an excellent cave that will allow her to work in the way she has always wanted. The wines are very rich and concentrated, with an extremely expressive bouquet and a rich, intensely creamy texture.”
Bettane & Desseauve, Grand Guide des Vins de France 2012
“…once again our heartfelt thanks for the many times that you have invited us into the mysteries and your thinking about your wine. This was my first tasting where I had a chance to taste a wine made by a female winemaker. I admire your courage, and your search to create something special and your own. Finally! A red wine that is full-bodied and honest, tasting exactly how it should. The bottles we bought are now in the cellar and we’re looking forward to tasting them again.”
Petra Graf, private German customer