Provence has become synonymous with a pale, ethereal style of rosé, much imitated around the world. One of the first women winemakers in the region and an early pioneer of this famous style, Régine Sumeire from the estates Château Barbeyrolles and Château la Tour de l’Evêque, has been instrumental in propelling Provence rosé towards its status as a cult classic. Here we learn more about her journey into the world of wine.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up working in the wine industry?
When my cousins and I were children, we had to do well in school, it was very important. Our parents hadn’t been able to study, so they wanted us to have that chance. My older cousin, who is like my sister, studied pharmacy. My father wanted me to follow the same route, as it was a prestigious programme and a guaranteed career. My father tried to insist, but I was adamant: I hated sick people and I didn’t want to study for seven years to sell little boxes of pills!
While studying in Aix-en-Provence, I also worked in the accounting department of the Sumeire wine estates to earn pocket money. That’s when I started to think it must be extraordinary to work in the vineyard every day. When I finished my studies, with a focus on political science, Spanish, and history, I was offered a job as an assistant in the history department at the university. I preferred to turn it down and work at the Barbeyrolles estate, which I bought in December 1977.
Has anyone inspired you, either within the wine industry or in your day-to-day life?
No-one specific. I have been very lucky to meet some great personalities throughout my life, in a wide variety of fields. Many have even come and stayed at Château Barbeyrolles.
What is it like being a vineyard’s owner/vine grower/winemaker in your region and country?
A lot of work! But also a lot of sharing and collaborating.
What have been your greatest challenges in the industry?
When I started out, there were hardly any women winemakers. As a result, it was a very macho environment, and it still is somewhat, but you just have to prove you are capable and then your gender can work in your favour.
We are just coming out of a long period of lockdowns throughout the pandemic. What have been your go-to wines to survive, and why?
I have been working on a book during the pandemic, titled “Between the Vines and Sea – the gourmet adventures of a family of Provençal winegrowers”. Whilst writing, we had the opportunity to do a lot of tastings with the book team and many of my neighbours, who came to taste the dishes I was working on for the recipes in the book. We probably had at least one bottle of champagne each week! We also enjoyed finding wines from the Château Barbeyrolles collection cellar and exchanged wines with other winegrowers. A few bottles ended up in sauces, but we have been very eclectic in our selection, depending on the recipe – the desire for discovery or re-discovery.
What will we find you doing when you’re not in the vineyard or making wine?
I’ll be in the kitchen!! I also swim lots (from May to November), enjoy walking, reading, listening to music and travelling.