Cordial couple Sylvie and Franck Siméoni plunged themselves into running their domaine organically right from the start: they set up shop in the region in 2001, after leaving jobs in the north to try and make a living in Saint-Chinian wine country. Out of the several cuvées they make, their La Toure (mostly 100+ year-old Carignan from this namesake vineyard) and L'Ame des Schistes (usually Syrah and Mourvèdre) stand out in particular for this scribbler's palate. They also do some tasty and fun Vin de Pays varietals, quirkily labelled with a sense of humour: a stripy Mourvèdre red and rosé, a Syrah called La Tête à l'Envers ('head inside out' or 'wrong way round') and a Carignan Vin de Crise ('crisis wine')! Click here for notes on some of these, tasted at Millésime Bio in 2006.
Commendably and bravely (purely because it might be perceived as un-trendy or down-market by toasted plank fans), they stopped using any wood for ageing their wines in 2002. Other 'house secrets' include "preferring to pick everything very ripe then do less extraction during vinification," as Franck explained his non-rocket-science approach. This year (2008) sees the launch of a new chunky Syrah rosé (see below); and the Siméonis have purchased a further 5 ha of vineyard, which is gradually being converted to organics. If you're in the area, it's best to make an appointment as their time is divided between Prades-sur-Vernazobre (home/office), the cellar in Cazouls-lès-Béziers and vineyard plots found here and there between the two.
I tasted these 2007 samples from the vats in Cazouls on a sunny but chilly (especially in that cellar, not surprisingly) late November day, 2007:
2007 Rosé de Syrah, St-Chinian (14%) - delicious fruit on a crisp and zingy yet weighty palate, very drinkable and stylish foodie rosé. 87
2007 Aramon - attractive juicy boiled sweet aromas lead on to tangy redcurrant and strawberry flavours, fresh and gluggable.
2007 Cinsault - delicious black cherry, rounded tasty and fresh.
2007 Grenache – gorgeous fruit and ripe rounded mouth-feel, fair grip too with the 15%+ alcohol not so obvious (this will be blended anyway). Very promising.
2007 Syrah + 10% Carignan – spicy and vibrant showing very ripe dark cherry fruit. Good stuff.
2007 La Toure (1 ha/2.5 acres of 1898 Carignan) – incredible colour with superb spicy blackberry and perfumed violets, concentrated and powerful with fresh elegant length. Wow, should be stunning after it settles down a little.
2007 the remaining Carignan – crisper and more closed up but again shows nice fruit and style.
2007 Mourvèdre – black olive with lively almost citrus tones, austere tannins yet it's very fruity with chunky concentrated finish. Another future star probably.
2001 Domaine Siméoni rouge (their first vintage blend aged in American oak) – maturing savoury edges with leather and dried cherry fruit, quite sumptuous and savoury on the finish. 89
Route de Berlou, 34360 Prades-sur-Vernazobre. Tel/fax: 04 67 93 78 92, mobile: 06 99 40 66 62, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.domainesimeoni.com