Between the cellars, there is a path to the vinegar factory. This building is the only one not connected to the others by an underground tunnel. The acetic bacteria so important for the preparation of sunset wine vinegar would be compromised if it were to develop in the cellar. It remains the number one enemy of wine and the best friend of our sunset wine vinegar.
Built to the north of the Château Virant property, the vinegar factory appears like a Provençal chapel. This building, built to evoke the expectation, the hope, and the almost religious faith that is necessary to create this precious liquid.
What is this balsamic elixir used for? Sunset wine, better known as Christmas wine in Provence.
On Christmas Eve, it is sunset wine that accompanies the thirteen desserts. It sits on the table, a proud partner to the “cacho fio” (the fruit tree log) in front of the fireplace. The oldest and the youngest members of the family walk around the table three times, paying homage to the Trinity. Then, to ward off evil spirits, the oldest throws a glass of sunset wine into the hearth of the fireplace and says in Provençal: “May God grant me the grace to see the coming year, and if we are not more, may we not be less.”
In 1990, the Cheylan family and their partner producers decided to revive this beautiful Provençal tradition by restarting the production of sunset wine.
To make this special wine, a huge copper cauldron gently cooks the grape juice. Slowly, the juice will reduce and concentrate. The cellar master carefully watches over the brew, and when its taste and golden color are perfect, the juice will be transferred to vats.
The slow, capricious fermentation inside the oak barrels will transform the juice into sunset wine.
The very specific flavors of sunset wine inspired the Cheylan family to place the barrels in the Provence sun to further develop the unique flavors. Every year, barrels of sunset wine are purposefully exposed to the elements in order to enhance the taste qualities. The wine evolves inside the barrels, taking advantage of the natural micro-oxygenation of the oak barrel.
Every year for the past 25 years, a few barrels of sunset wine are isolated and exposed to the elements. The wine will evolve in the barrels, benefit from the natural micro-oxygenation of the oak barrel and be transformed. The alchemy happens slowly, very slowly.
Inside the vinegar factory, everything is carefully monitored: the evolution of the wines, the taste, the color, the concentration, and the acetic bite.
This patience will be rewarded.
For several months, there is nothing to offer. It takes time for nature to do its job.
Just as in the vineyards of Modena, making sunset wine is an art. This is what the Cheylan family wanted to perpetuate: the art of developing an exceptional product despite the uncertainties and surprises. It is a real challenge to acquire this level of expertise. The master vinegar maker Laure Faure is proud to take part in this adventure. The objective always remains the same--to offer another quality item, another quintessential byproduct of the vine.