Last year French fashion house CHANEL embraced their latest fine wine endeavour, acquiring Domaine de l’Ile, a prestigious estate on the exclusive island of Porquerolles, the largest of the “golden” islands just off the Côte d'Azur. Sharing the same philosophy as its sister wineries (Châteaux Rauzan-Ségla and Canon), Domaine de l'Ile has invested in a stellar winemaking team, enlisting the help of Pierre Etcheberry and celebrated winemaker Nicolas Audebert.
Nicolas Audebert is in fact a local to the region, born and raised in the nearby port city and naval base of Toulon. The island of Porquerolles is a place of idyllic beauty with a fascinating history. First inhabited in 1820, the island was largely destroyed by a devastating fire at the end of the 19th Century, before being auctioned off in 1910. The island was acquired in its entirety by François Joseph Fournier, who “was a man of many lives”; the son of a poor Belgian boatman, he became fabulously rich thanks to his discovery of the largest seam of gold ever found in Mexico. Fournier was the sole bidder in the auction of the island of Porquerolles, which was a wedding gift to his wife, Sylvia.
They established vines on the island almost immediately, planting vineyards on different strategic plains of Porquerolles. Under their visionary and watchful eye, the island reclaimed its agricultural character. It sprung back to life; an oasis in the middle of the Mediterranean. The vines populated its gentle slopes and fuelled the chatter in the village. The vineyards were in fact some of the first in the region to be classified as Côtes de Provence, due to the quality of the wine produced.
In 1957, the island was divided up between the four Fournier daughters; each one received a plain. Progressively, three of them sold their inheritance to the French government, but Lélia Le Ber (neé Fournier), fought to keep her land and replanted vines on the Brégançonnet plain. She passed on the estate to her son, Sébastien Le Ber, who managed the family business before entrusting the site to CHANEL, opening a new chapter in the story of Domaine de l’Ile.