Villa Minna Vineyard is a 15 hectare family estate situated in the heart of Provence, between Aix and Salon. The estate was established in 1929 by the grandfather of current owner, former rally driver Jean-Paul Luc. Until the mid-1990's, the grapes were sold to the local co-operative, but Jean-Paul and his wife Minna (after whom the estate is now named) were more ambitious. They grafted new varieties onto existing vines that previously yielded grapes of poor quality and also planted their first parcel of Syrah. In 1996, Minna graduated from her studies in viticulture and oenology and for 3 years (1996, 1997 and 1998) Minna and Jean-Paul made their first small batches of wines, purely for the enjoyment of their family and friends. 1999 was the inaugural commercial vintage of Minna Vineyard, with just 2,900 bottles of red wine produced. But this wine gained instant recognition with 2 stars awarded in the Guide Hachette, as well as being listed by some of the best restaurants in Provence. In 2005 the first vintage of Minna Vineyard white wine was made.
Since then, the estate has gone from strength to strength, garnering some excellent reviews in France's top wine publications. The estate is now in its third year of conversion towrds official organic status, a philosophy which Minna and Jean-Paul have adopted all along. No pesticides or artificial fertilizers are used and weeding is kept to a minimum, whilst all cuttings from the vines and other flora are ploughed back into the ground. The soil is limestone-based and is also characterised by the presence of many fossils - difficult to work, but good for heat retention and for encouraging the roots to grow deep.
We received an invitation from Jean-Paul to visit the Villa Minna stand at the Vinisud fair in Montpellier in February 2012. I was sufficiently intrigued by the description of the wines and the impressive list of citations in the various French publications to pay them a visit. And I am glad we did, for we were bowled over by them. The white wines are quirky, elegant and full of life, whilst the reds are ripe, beautifully balanced and show excellent ageing potential.
And in comparison to many of their Provençal counterparts, they are very competitively priced, considering their undoubted quality. The labels for each wine in each vintage are all different, being extracts from various childhood paintings by Jean-Paul and Minna's daughters, Tytti (pronounced Tutti) and Meryl.