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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

24 January 2009

Languedoc: Borie La Vitarèle, Saint-Chinian

UPDATED JAN 2014 (goes there) - and see links at bottom too.

Certified organic and farmed along biodynamic lines by Cathy Planès and Jean François Izarn, this charming 16 ha/40 acre property is lost in the countryside beyond the village co-op (it's nicely signposted though). Their Saint-Chinian appellation wines are labelled by vineyard site, such as Les Schistes (more than one type of schist, obviously: plural schists sounds odd in English) or Terres Blanches (chalk & clay), reflecting the varieties planted and nurtured across different plots and soils. They also appear to have been quite successful with Cabernet and, more surprisingly, Merlot (see notes below) in this area since setting up the domaine in 1990. Cathy and Jean François can also provide full-blown meals in their cosy ferme-auberge (farmhouse-inn literally) for a minimum of ten people,if booked in advance (including a good dose of organic food, I assume, matched with the estate's wines), which must be a great way to integrate the actual flavours of their labours, andphilosophy, with good hearty local produce.

I tasted these in situ in November 2007:
2006 La Cuvée des Cigales, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel (Grenache Merlot) – nice fruity spicy style showing a bit of grip and depth too, easy drinking and ready to do so. 83-85
2006 Terres Blanches, St-Chinian (80% 
Grenache 20% Syrah) – attractive rich black cherry fruit with liquorice tones, quite chunky tannins v fruit concentration, power and length; needs a few months at least to open up, lovely length and style. 89-91
2001 La Combe, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel (60% 
Cabernet Sauvignon plus Syrah Merlot) – appealing 'volatile' complexity and developing fruit, meaty with perfumed cassis edges; maturing palate v rather stonky tannins, powerful yet lush finish. 88-90


And these at Millésime Bio wine show Jan 2009, Montpellier:
2008 Terres Blanches (vat sample) - lovely intensity of peppery black cherry and cassis fruit; firm and 'chalky' texture v fruity and silkily structured. 89+
2007 Les Schistes (
Grenache Syrah Carignan) - firmer and more structured v richer mouth-feel, very spicy dark fruit with power and promise. 90-92
2007 La Combe (
Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah) - smokier and more rustic, very chunky and solidly textured v ripe cassis and prune, again powerful finish. 90
2006 Les Cr
ès (Syrah Mourvèdre) - still a bit closed on the nose, concentrated and very firm with a tad of coco/chocolate oak; pretty huge and quite extracted but also has nice developing tobacco edges and plenty of lush fruit. Needs 6-12 months to come together properly. 92+?

View my notes on more BLV wines by clicking here (Millésime Bio 2006) and here (Montpellier 2005).

UPDATES: latest La Vitarèle HERE (special St-Chinian supplement Jan 2014), here (St-Chinian report April 2011 inc. their Terres Blanches 2009 & 2010 vintages) and here (2009 vintage report, June 2010).


La Combe, 34490 Causses-et-Veyran. Tel: 04 67 89 50 43, fax: 04 67 89 70 79; jf.izarn@libertysurf.frwww.borielavitarele.fr.

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