A family history
Previous inhabitants of the Domaine
The earliest evidence of human habitation at Saint-Ferréol (in the form of burial sites and broken- tile-concrete floors) - dates from the 1st century B.C.
During the Middle Ages Saint-Ferréol was part of lands belonging to the Pontevès family which gave its name to the nearby castle and village.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a motte-and-bailey fortification with a tower was created above the valley of the Riou. This fortification seems to have been connected with the Chapel of Our Lady of Salettes, of which the ruins can be seen 300 metres below, near the present-day farm buildings. At the eastern end of the Domaine there stood another chapel dedicated to Saint Ferréol, a third-century martyr who died at Vienne in what is today the départment of Isère in Eastern France. The archives mention farm buildings nearby from the end of the fifteenth century onwards.
Pierre Maurel, the Croesus of Provence
In the middle of the seventeenth- century Louis de Pontevès sold the property to Pierre Maurel. The new owner, an entrepreneur and financier from Aix en Provence who had amassed an enormous fortune, was nicknamed the Croesus of Provence. He built a gentleman’s residence modelled on the style of the country mansions that were fashionable around Aix.
When he died, Pierre Maurel left behind a large number of heirs (having married three times and had eighteen children) but also many debts. This situation led to a series of disputes over the inheritance among his descendants. Ownership of Saint-Ferréol fell to one of his nephews.
The Lyons of Saint-Ferréol
When Saint-Ferréol was purchased by Joseph Lyon in 1720 the land and buildings were in a poor state. Joseph embarked on major renovation work. His grandson, who held the post of Treasurer of the States of Provence, continued this work with the construction in 1750 of the main part of the farm, with buildings arranged around the little yard. He improved the drainage of the fields by channelling the spring higher up.
Upon his death ownership of the property passed to his daughter Julie, widow of Alexandre Perrache d'Ampus.
The 19th and 20th centuries
Over the next hundred years the Domaine grew to its full size (185 acres of arable land, 494 acres of woodland.) New buildings increased the space for storing the harvest and giving shelter to the animals, and enabled all the work of the farm to be centred on the current site. Through marriage, the property passed to the Lyle Taulane family. Jules de Lyle Taulane made use of his farming expertise to expand the area of land that could be irrigated. In the years 1875-1880 the vineyard was destroyed by phylloxera, an insect pest accidentally imported from the United States, which ravaged a large proportion of the vines in Europe.
However, from 1899 onwards, the vineyard was gradually replanted, thanks to Jean de Jerphanion, grandson of Jules de Lyle Taulane, and grew to 111 acres. At the end of the Second World War, Jean’s nephew, Edouard de Jerphanion took up the reins. Restructuring of the estate led to the removal of some of the vines in the 1970s, and the current area of the vineyard is about 50 acres. Recent diversification has seen the development of tourist accommodation and the opening of a wine-cellar for direct sales of wine to the public.