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08 April 2011

Languedoc: Saint-Chinian 2010 vintage

This is another in a series of reports and winery profiles from five intensive days spent at the “Languedoc Millésimes” tastings in the region (21-25 March 2011), where I had the chance to taste mostly 2010, 2009 and 2008 vintages. As well as, more importantly and more fun, meet and talk to a couple of St-Chinian winemakers and try (drink/enjoy even; woops, not v. pc) some of their older wines too. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here, if you get my drift. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes, added later so didn’t influence my notes.

Based on a hardly comprehensive/definitive sampling below, 2010 appears to have produced some good but not great white wines and lacklustre to good rosés. Quite a few of the red samples were looking a bit fragile or dumb or ugly-duckling, which is always a risk when raw and unfinished wines are left open to the air. However, certain bottles were already showing very well with similar hallmarks to other Languedoc regions: rich and concentrated with solid fruit and structure yet appealing-textured tannins. Mind you, I said stuff like that last year and the year before about the two previous vintages; and now 2008 is generally looking a bit of a mixed bag (for reds anyway, actually pretty sound for white and rosé) and 2009 can either really impress or rather disappoint.

2010 was a rollercoaster year of weather with a long cold winter, snow in early March in certain places (and not necessarily just on the hills), an awkward hesitant spring with warm weather then rainy and colder again, followed by a very hot and very dry summer, isolated storms in August/September although, generally, very warm right through till early October. Net result: vibrant high-quality reds, as described above, but low on the quantity front thanks to that challenging growing season. Further comments on these three vintages to follow, as I post more blurbs like this on other areas of the Languedoc.

Rugged St-Chinian wine-lands, from www.borielavitarele.fr

Saint-Chinian 2010 vintage


Domaine des Soulié - estery fresh pear and grapey vs intricate aniseed/fennel tones, crisp and mineral bite. 1
Domaine La Croix Sainte Eulalie "tradition" (1/3 Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Vermentino) - similar although more perfumed and exotic/flowery, zesty/chalky mouth-feel, nice and zingy with that underlying flowery peach/apricot fruit. Acid/alcohol a bit hard at the moment although shows attractive oily vs crisp profile. 1+ €5.60
Domaine Rimbert (Clairette, Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Vermentino) - flowery and peachy, more intricate and interesting though on the nose; ends up a tad flat/dilute compared with above, although there's fresh acidity and nice bitter twist vs banana fruit. 1 €6.50
Cave de Roquebrun "Col de la Serre" (Grenache blanc, Roussanne) - milky/lightly toasty with quite rich exotic honey and apricot; subtle oak grain, fatter pineapple fruit vs mineral undertones. Touch clunky perhaps but attractive style overall and good value. 1 €4.50
Domaine du Sacré Coeur (Grenache blanc, Roussanne) - juicy fruity pineapple vs grapey floral tones, crisper palate and zesty finish. 1 €5.20
Cave des Vignerons St-Chinian "Secret des Capitelles" (Grenache blanc, Roussanne) - yeast-leesy buttery and full-on vs cut of acidity, fair mouthful although a bit flabby and simple. 0.5 €6.60
Domaine La Linquière "Fleur de Lin" (Grenache blanc, Vermentino) - ripe and honeyed with milky edges, rounded vs zingy with quite intense mineral side vs that quite exotic fruit. 1.5-2 €9
Clos Bagatelle (Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Carignan blanc, Vermentino, Chenin) - milky leesy edges with light toast vs juicy and quite rich mouth-feel, attractive mineral/celery/aniseed tones vs weight on the finish. 2


Château Cazal Viel "Vieilles Vignes" (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah) - elegant pink colour, rose petal and light red fruit notes, zingy crisp palate with subtle biter twist; fair class. 1-2 €7.60
Château Creissan "Cort d'Amor" (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - pale pink, similar style to above although much less intense. OK at €4.
Domaine Moulinier (Syrah, Grenache) - quite delicate and tight, subtle creamy red fruits, lacks bit of zest perhaps but it’s OK. 0.5 €5.80
Domaine des Mathurins "Petite Fantaisie" (Syrah, Cinsault) - fuller orangey colour, oily/fruity style, more "vinous" and chunky, quite nice although lacks bit of class. 0.5 €4.50
Clos Bagatelle Donnadieu "Camille et Juliette" (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre 13%) - again a pale "rosé de presse" style (they’ve stopped doing saignée rosé), subtle and crisp with red vs creamy fruit, tight and quite steely finish. 1+ €6.50
Château La Dournie (1/3 Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah) - quite elegant and zesty, nice crunchy redcurrant/cranberry then "sweeter" finish. 1 €5.70
Domaine La Linquière (Grenache, Syrah) - juicy fruity boiled sweetie, has a bit of leesy bite and creamier finish. €5
Domaine Rimbert "Le Rosé réussi" (Cinsault, Syrah) - oilier style with rounder strawberry fruit, bit of zing although ends tad bland maybe. 0.5 €5.80

RED - unfinished vat/cask samples

Château La Dournie "Elise" (Syrah, Grenache) - lovely minty wild spicy black cherry, peppery and punchy vs rich and fruity, quite a kick and nice firm/round tannins. 2 €13.50
Mas Champart "Causse du Bousquet" (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache) - somewhat closed and awkward, a tad malo-lactic on the nose; nice fruit though and again soft-ish tannins. 1+? €11.60
Borie La Vitarele "Terres Blanches" (biodynamic) - again shows lovely fruit, pure vibrant dark cherry and liquorice with peppery edges; juicy vs concentrated, attractive coated tannins vs ripe black fruits vs wild herby touches. 2
Château La Madura "Grand Vin" (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - bit awkward and firm, not showing well. €17
Domaine de Pech Ménel (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - malo notes but rich and chunky underneath, again fine tannins and concentrated mouthful. 2 €6-€7
La Croix Sainte Eulalie "Armandelis" (Syrah, Mourvèdre) - minty and wild flowers/herbs, nice fresh cherry fruit then spicier liquorice side, firmer palate vs solid depth. 2.5 €7.70
Domaine du Sacré Coeur - not showing much, taste it again in a few months.
Château Belot "Les Mouleyres" (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache) - oak dominated, obviously, and structured vs rounded, could be promising if they don't keep it much longer in that new? oak. 1
Not sure who made these two, they had just one mysterious word stuck onto the bottle. Will find out and add producer's name:
Chant - lovely lavender and black cherry, nice tannins, darker vs more savoury finish with grip and tight elegant flourish. 2.5
Esprit - lots of new oak, fair substance underneath and very firm, difficult to taste but would like to come back to it.

Saint-Chinian red, other vintages

Le Prieuré des Mourgues Grande Réserve 2007 (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, 14%) - well balanced with solid tannins vs sweet fruit and developing savoury/animal notes, quite rich and spicy (paprika) vs attractive black cherry and length; maturing vs structured finish with firm vs rounded texture and lively flourish too. 2+ €12
Borie La Vitarèle Les Terres Blanches 2009 - lush black cherry with earthy peppery edges, solid vs appealing rounded palate finishing with sweet fruit and power. 2 €8.50
Mas de Cynanque L’Acutum 2008 (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan; estate converting over to organic) - powerful with grainy texture vs rich cherry fruit, has a touch of freshness about it although it’s a bit “hot” too, attractive depth of fruit though. 1 €12 

Profile on Clos Bagatelle. Scan down the Languedoc winery A to Z for more, right hand column or do a search using "Saint Chinian."

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.