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How ‘shoe man’ followed his rosé dream

Stephen Cronk

I will start by quoting from the Mirabeau en Provence website: “Stephen had been in the corporate world for 15 years and, in August 2008, turned down a promotion that would have meant more money but also more stress, longer hours and less time with his young family.

“For many years we had been dreaming and talking about moving to France to make our own wine, but the moment never seemed quite right to make the big leap.

“Soon after, a good redundancy offer seemed the perfect opportunity to turn the dream into reality and, after selling our beloved house, we left the leafy suburbs of southwest London in August 2009.

Our worldly possessions were packed up on the back of a truck and with barely a word of French between us, we headed south to a small village called Cotignac, in the heart of Provence. We spent a year getting our bearings, learning to live the Provençal way and criss-crossing the country researching and finding the best vineyards to work with.

“The next step was setting up a small wine business with the principle objective of making a Provence rosé that would be regarded as one of the very best from the region, while building a brand that people would grow to love. In order to achieve this aim, we put together a highly experienced winemaking team and we threw our hearts and souls into the brand and innovative communications with our customers.

“Mirabeau is now being sold in more than 50 markets and we’ve won medals and earned acclaim from some of the world’s toughest wine critics.”

I wonder if at that time Stephen had any idea that rosé would soon pass white wine in sales in France, and Provence would lead the way in what has become the fastest growing wine category in the world. He and his family certainly chose the right time to make their move, and although we have been very pleased with our success, we did think it time to add to our overall Provence selection in Bermuda. As we did our research we felt that one producer was consistently at the top of their game and so they were contacted and kindly sent samples last year for us to taste.

When we expressed interest in placing an order, we were told that they were completely sold out and we would have to wait for this year.

At the time I had no idea that I was dealing with the “shoe man” of internet renown.

Without unlimited resources to promote their wine, the family had resorted to innovative ideas such as YouTube videos, which worked quite well. And then Stephen, in January of 2014, released his short version of “how to remove a cork with your shoe”.

With over 11 million hits and growing, it is one of the most seen videos ever. Just Google “Stephen Cronk removes wine cork” or “how to remove a cork without a corkscrew” and you will see for yourself. In fact, when I told Stephen that I had just discovered his secret, he sent me one where he uses a flip-flop on a beach, which he felt was perfect for Bermuda.

I am just so fascinated by the whole story but I must tell you about their wines!

Mirabeau Pure Rosé 2015 is a blend of 60 per cent grenache and 40 per cent syrah. The Sunday Express had this to say about it: “Beautifully packaged, this is pale salmon pink in colour. It’s lively and bright but it has some of the rounded texture that makes Provence rosé so attractive, with a softness to the red cherry and pear fruit.” Critic Robert Parker wrote: “About as good as Provençal rosés can get.” One of the beauties of this style of wine is that it is just so good for sipping, but it also enhances many dishes such as Asian, white meats, grilled fish and even salads. $20.35.

Their second wine, Mirabeau 2015, that we sell for $17.30 was entered in the International Wine Challenge 2016 in London and out of 400 still rosé wines from 27 countries, three were awarded gold medals.

Mirabeau was one of them! Robert Parker has rated both of the Mirabeau wines in his top ten for the past two years and well-known British critic Jancis Robinson gives it her third highest score. It is a blend of 60 per cent syrah and 40 per cent grenache.

Not only are we excited to introduce these wines to our island, but the Cronk family is most happy to be here and in a map on their website, Bermuda is now clearly marked as one of the fortunate places where these lovely rosés can be enjoyed.

This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm.