Rosé wine might not be at the top of your Christmas drinks list this month – unless you’ve been perusing Stephen and Jeany Cronk’s Instagram profile lately. It is typically seen as a summer tipple, yet the Cronks’ smooth photographs of gorgeous glasses of pink wine (with or without bubbles), artlessly placed in front of snow-sprinkled Christmas trees and sophisticated glittery dresses, will leave you in no doubt that rosé is the ultimate lifestyle accompaniment to the festive season.
In France, rosé wine is a big deal. The French drink more of it than they do white, and rosé can be as happily married with seafood as with grilled meats or duck confit. The Cronks are not French themselves (she’s German, he’s British), but their Maison Mirabeau in Provence has been producing and exporting large quantities of high quality rosé wine for 10 years, and they’ve been credited with being at the forefront of the recent ‘rosé revolution’ in the UK. Earlier this year, I was sent to photograph these leaders of the rosé lifestyle, at their beautiful home, Domaine Mirabeau.
Open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew
If you don’t know Stephen Cronk for his wine, you might have come across him in a 50 second video that went viral a few years ago. He was the elegant English gentleman who, banging his bottle of wine in a fine leather brogue, against a stone wall, showed 50 million people what to do if they’re caught in a tight spot without a corkscrew. However, this is but the tip of the iceberg of what this star of ‘the world’s most watched wine video’ and his wife know about wine.
Mirabeau’s wines are today exported to over 20 countries. Described by Robert Parker, the most influential wine critic in the US, as “about as good as Provençal rosés get”, they have won several prestigious awards…even in France. French wines in supermarket aisles outnumber bottles from the rest of the world by at least 9:1 and the Brits especially tend to be mocked for a lack of gastronomic savoir-faire. So it was no mean feat for Mirabeau Pure to win gold at one of the most prestigious wine competitions in France in 2015, and for Jeany to be elected to the board of Wines of Provence.
Pink drink lifestyle leaders
Moving to the South of France to set up a thriving new wine business may be the dream of many – yet few make it happen. It wasn’t thanks to any prior knowledge of winemaking that the Cronks were successful, either. They left corporate lives in London and moved with their children to the rolling hills of Provence 10 years ago, to start from scratch. Their story caught the interest of BUNTE magazine for a colourful picture-led, lifestyle feature, and my brief was broad for the day’s shoot.
Fortunately, the Cronks know a thing or two about PR and photography, and their home and selves were ready for a photographer to start work immediately. Jeany has a bent for interior design and effortlessly styled the property photographs; the family posed for happy portraits in various locations around the domaine (though I believe their teenage son may have smiled less without a parental bribe); husband and wife set up a ‘cocktail hour’ scenario in their kitchen with the award-winning, French Riviera-inspired, rosé gin they launched last year and their personal chef put together a fine spread on the terrace for lifestyle photographs of a sun-soaked, rosé-fuelled lunch.
Rooting for the future
After eating my share of the sun-soaked lunch, and enjoying a recuperative swim in the pool, I turned my camera on the domaine itself. I photographed some family pets (llamas), took elevated shots of the property from the top of a distant water tank and made portraits of Stephen in the vineyard, as the afternoon light softened.
Surrounded by his vines, Stephen became animated. Not all is rosy (boom, boom) in winemaking in the South of France today:
“The Mistral [one of the main winds of Provence] is blowing less & less. Without its drying effect, mould can flourish on the vines…not good at all“. Indeed, the impact of climate change on wine is a topic I know a little about from a reportage I did for Stern magazine) and it is one close to Stephen’s heart. At the Domaine de Mirabeau, he and his team are putting into place new, regenerative techniques in soil management and vine growing techniques – experiences that he wants to share, to help and inspire other vineyards. Stephen has also co-founded the Regenerative Viticulture Foundation, which aims to encourage the wine industry to increase biodiversity and play their part in reversing climate change.
Bath above the vines
Once the sun started to set, I put my camera down. Photographer, magazine editor and the Cronks were all pleased with the day’s work, and we sank into deep cushions on couches at the edge of the vineyard to indulge in l’apero [apéritif]. Teenager George Cronk may not be into posing for photographs, but he’s a keen barman. Gin and tonic without lemon or lime would have seemed unthinkable to me before I’d tasted the Cronk family recipe, which George demonstrated with panache. Containing Maison Mirabeau’s ‘Original Rosé Gin‘, fresh rosemary plucked from the garden, tonic (ideally Fever Tree) and Angostura bitters, it made for one of the few recipes (food or drink) that I’ve ever written down to repeat at home.
Candles were lit, a meal was served, and we talked on into the peaceful night… yet it wasn’t late when I stole away. I’d photographed the bedroom suite that I was to sleep in – and its exceptional, pink (obviously) bath. Surely it was one of the only bathtubs in the world to have a magnificent view of vineyards and I wasn’t going to miss out on this bathing opportunity. Jeany winked and sent me on my way with a last, fine glass of wine. It was clear: I’d bought into the rosé world, hook, line & sinker. No prizes for guessing what I’ll be drinking this Christmas day.
> See Portrait portfolio