The Past, Present, and Future of Rose with Sainte Marguerite en Provence’s Olivier Fayard

The Past, Present, and Future of Rose with Sainte Marguerite en Provence’s Olivier Fayard

sainte marguerite en provence

Fifty years ago, most French enjoyed rosé during summer holidays. And the rest of the year, it was a dead category, forgotten for months until the beaches opened once more. At least, that’s according to Olivier Fayard, a second-generation winemaker at Sainte Marguerite en Provence. Fayard’s father started with three hectares to produce his own take on a lighter, nearly clear rosé. Expansion has been gradual but consistent in the decades following, and Sainte Marguerite now grows across nearly 300 hectares of their own vineyards.

Olivier works with two of his three siblings as Wine Operations Lead, continuing their father’s vision to bring rosé beyond the occasional holiday beverage. In 2022, the family sold a majority stake in the winery to Pernod Ricard, with the three siblings staying on to maintain their roles. Pernod recently announced they’ll be launching Sainte Marguerite rosé across the United States for the first time.

Drinkhacker recently sat down with Olivier to discuss his family’s mission, the pressures and advantages of second-generation winemaking, and why rosé might look very different in the decades to come.

Note: This interview has been edited for readability.

Drinkhacker: For those who aren’t familiar with your wines, how would you describe your house style?

Olivier Fayard: It’s a special Provence style. It’s the South of France style. We live in a part of France that is fun, it’s easy to live there. We are very close to the sea. The summer is very long, like in California or Florida. And I want to emphasize that years ago, you’d come to the South of France, and you’d stay for a month or two, and you’re drinking rosé. Then after you left, you’d forget about it. You’d think that wine was just red or white.

So rosé was the wine you drink while on holiday. It’s so much more than that, though! And people have come around, think how many more people drink rosé now compared to 46 years ago! But we want to show people that rosé is adaptable, it’s easy, it’s something you can drink almost any time and with almost any food. The style we aim for is adaptable and refreshing!

Drinkhacker: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as operations lead?

Olivier Fayard: I have a lot of responsibilities. But for me, the most important thing is that I drive the vineyard. Because for me if you do not have good grapes, you cannot make good wine. So while there are a lot of things I do from growing to harvest to actually producing the wine with my brother, driving the vineyards is my favorite thing and my main focus. We have a lot more land than we used to!

Drinkhacker: Are there advantages to being a second generation winemaker? Or added pressures?

Olivier Fayard: My father came here from the center of France 46 years ago. When he arrived, he had three sons. My sister was born six years later. And rosé was overlooked then! People said, “No one drinks rosé outside of vacation, outside of the summer.” But he knew — and I knew — that rosé is a really good wine! You can make a truly great rosé. And he dreamt of making great rosé in Provence.

He decided to put in that work, to put in that long commitment. He built that over many years, what we have now. And now being the second generation, it’s easier because you grow up around it, and one day you decide to continue this adventure. It’s a sort of partnership with our father. But it’s very interesting because we exchange a lot; there’s a dynamic of the younger generation, the drive to move and change, with the experience of the older generation.

You have the push of the younger generation, which wants to try new things. They’re dynamic. They want to innovate, to try new things. And you have the experience of the older, which has a certain way of doing things. And it’s a balance, especially in the family, but I think it actually works well because you need both of those perspectives. It’s really a family business at the end of the day.

My father retired last year, but he still checks in, he likes to see how we’re doing things and give his thoughts even though technically he doesn’t work anymore. *laughs*

Drinkhacker: Are there any innovations or expressions you’re excited about for the future of Sainte Marguerite en Provence?

Olivier Fayard: What I am most excited about is growing distribution and reaching new audiences for our two cuvees: Symphonie and Fantastique. We want to maintain high standards, from the quality and style of the wines, commitment to viticultural practices…to the vision of a modern Provence.

Drinkhacker: How do you think winemaking is going to change in the next 10 or 20 years?

Olivier Fayard: In wine, especially in rosé, there have been massive changes — and I’d say improvements — in 46 years. That seems like a long time, but so much changed, that it was actually quite fast.

Provence is this dynamic, exciting place in wine. It feels as exciting as it has ever been. I think we can progress again, to push new expressions and new ways of thinking about and enjoying wine. That involves testing new blends, new grapes, new everything. Especially the blends, I’m excited about that, to push what people think rosé can be. We have some expressions that are so light, so clear, that people think, “This can’t be rosé!” But it is, and it’s great, and they’re some of our most popular, best wines.

We have to be ready for anything and everything to change. My grandmother used to say, if you think you are in balance, you’re wrong. You can go up, you can go down, but you can never really stay the same. And when you think you’ve arrived at a destination or goal, it shifts. My brother, sister, and I all work together to make the wine, and we treat winemaking like that. Things are different than they were 46 years ago, and they’ll be much different than now in the future.

David Tao is a writer for Drinkhacker.

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