Ex-Miraval owner on letting go of the French château
Tom Bove, who owned Château Miraval from 1993 to 2011 when he sold the property to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, tells db how he faced giving up the estate, and spills the beans on his new wine venture down the road in Provence.
Before there was any talk of Brad Pitt, divorce lawsuits and potential sales to Russian oligarchs, there was Tom Bove.
“We were making good wines,” Tom Bove told the drinks business of his spell as owner of Château Miraval, during which time he succeeded in elevating the domaine’s table wine offering to a portfolio of quality, premium wines.
Speaking of how Miraval has evolved since he sold it to the Pitts, and indeed since the Pitts have sold the property themselves, Bove’s stance appears to be one of fond detachment. It wasn’t, he says, a particularly sore blow to discover that after all his hard work on improving the château’s wines, Miraval has since reverted to buying grapes from other wineries.
“When you sell a place you have to separate from it because someone will always want to paint your kitchen purple or rip out your floor,” he told db during a recent trip to Côtes de Provence.
Bove speaks highly of the now famously feuding couple, recalling cooking for the pair in his aforementioned kitchen, and describes the pair as being “really very nice.”
His own attention to quality wine production has hardly wavered, as evidenced through his latest project, the restoration of Château Bellini, a mere 35-minute drive from Miraval. He purchased the 17th Century property in 2016, and is in the process of transforming it into one of the finest estates in Provence, with 12 rooms for visitors, due to open in spring 2023.
No expense has been spared in hiring a team of Italian designers and architects to lend some va va voom to the grand château’s crumbling edifice. The aesthetic will pay homage to the longstanding relationship between France and Italy in this corner of the region, with the estate built on the Via Aurelia, which was once the main trade route between Rome and Aix-en-Provence.
There will be goats on-site to graze the nine hectares of vineyards, as well as helping in the production of goats’ cheese, and a vegetable garden will provide fresh produce for the estate’s restaurant, which will also serve olive oil produced from olive trees in the grounds.
As for the wine itself, on Château Bellini’s list is a traditional method Brut Nature sparkling rosé, an amphora-aged Syrah and a number of other premium pinks. For now, annual production is modest – around 30,000 bottles per year – and all grapes are hand picked, with no machinary permitted in the vineyards. Only the very best blends are bottled for market, with the rest sold to bulk, and Bove is extremely strict on this.
“I think Château Bellini is going to be something really special,” he says.
A former naval officer, Bove studied engineering at the United States Naval Academy, and worked in the Navy’s nuclear submarine programme before starting his own successful business which eventually led to him buying Miraval.
During his stewardship of Miraval, Bove not only modernised its viticulture but added a spa, Jacuzzi, twin gyms and an indoor pool for good measure. These assets are in addition to a previously built recording studio installed on the property by French jazz panist Jacques Loussier, in which Sting and Pink Floyd have recorded albums.
Despite being married in Miraval’s chapel in 2014, things have turned increasingly sour between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, with the château at the heart of a bitter dispute between the two.
In June this year, Pitt accused Jolie of “contributing nothing” to Miraval, upon learning of her decision to sell the château to an oligarch, which Pitt claimed was a “violation of his contractual rights.”
Then in September 2022, Angelina Jolie filed a US$250m lawsuit over claims Brad Pitt had tried to ‘seize control’ of the winery.