“A grouping of friends who share the same passion”: this is how Prince Félix von Luxembourg explains the recently founded associations of 12 winemakers from the area surrounding the village of Lorgues in Provence. The members* make the best quality wines — cru classé — and their president is the 33-year-old prince, who owns Château Les Crostes.
Second in line to the throne of his petit nation, Félix of Luxembourg is dressed casually in a pink shirt and black jeans when we meet.
“In January 2016, I invited all of the winemakers from around Lorgues, this terrain blessed by God, to my estate. 12 out of 16 came. Prior to [my invitation], everyone was locked away in their own vineyard. I wanted to break the communication barrier and that’s how our association, ‘Lorgues Terre de Vins’, began. It’s a wonderful opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas. It’s not easy to run a winery so it’s good to have companions. We understand each other splendidly!”
The different nationalities of the members enhance the Lorgues location and help to make the area more well-known: vice president is Valérie Rousselle, the owner of Château Roubine, and the honorary president is king of truffles Clement Bruno.
In addition to the enchanting town, the place is a true treasure of local produce; wine, of course, but also olive oil, honey and nougat all in the middle of an untouched landscape. An appellation d’origine contrôlée — or AOC — is not yet in place.
There will be, however, a small train that takes visitors from one vineyard to another and a discovery pass available from the tourism office listing the participating wineries. If you visit all twelve and can prove it with a stamp, champions are gifted with 12 bottles of delicious wine — one from each domaine. Joint artistic and charitable initiatives are in the works and a commission has been set up to review the quality of each company. The town is also trying to improve its internet connectivity.
It wasn’t actually Félix who plumped for life in a vineyard: “It was my wife!” he says with a laugh and a glass of cool rosé from Château Les Crostes in hand. “My father-in-law bought the estate in 1998. He gave it to my wife in 2012, a year before our wedding. Claire and I went to school together in Switzerland and we have known each other since she was 17 and I 18. Seven years later, we met again by accident and have been by each other’s side ever since.”
Both studied bioethics, a subject that involves (among many others) medicine and law, but also politics and philosophy.
“I wanted to absorb as much general knowledge as possible,” says the charismatic prince, who also works as a bio advisor.
The property on which the estate is located comprises a total of 250 hectares of land including forests and 55 hectares of vines. They also produce 300 litres of olive oil annually.
After they took over Château Les Crostes, the couple realised: “First of all, it is important to accept the inheritance of her father and to secure his enormous work permanently. The domain was magnificent, we only changed the marketing. In the beginning, it was hard to sell our wine, but now we almost don’t have enough! I would not spend more than 30€ on a bottle of rosé in a restaurant.”
Claire and Félix married in 2013 near Saint Maximin, but celebrated at the château. Their two children, Princess Amalia (three) and Prince Liam (six months), were both baptised in Lorgues. For three years, the family lived in Provence, but now their main residence is in Geneva. The prince commutes back and forth twice a month: “The domaine remains a big part of our lives.”
*Château l’Arnaude, Château Sainte Béatrice, Château de Berne, Domaine du Clos d’Alari, Château Les Crostes, Domaine Estello, Château la Martinette, Château Roubine, Château des Sarrins, Château Mentone, Château Sainte-Foy & Domaine des Aumèdes.