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28 July 2011

Languedoc: Domaine Alain Chabanon, Montpeyroux/Terrasses du Larzac

Alain Chabanon worked for the legendary (in his own particular way) Alain Brumont of Château Montus in Madiran country after getting his degree in viticulture and winemaking; then returned to the Languedoc in the late 80s, where he bought a few plots of vines around Montpeyroux and Jonquières. He made his first vintage in 1992 and the rest is history, as the cliché runs, since Alain now enjoys quite a reputation for his quality and sometimes slightly quirky wines - you wouldn't perhaps expect Merlot planted up here let alone that it makes good wine too, and his white from Vermentino and Chenin Blanc is something special as well. These blends/varietals are sourced nowadays from 20 ha (nearly 50 acres) of vineyards lying around his home in Lagamas on the way up to the awesome Larzac terraces, which spectacularly fall off the bottom end of the Massif Central range. Alain is a certified organic winegrower and also uses biodynamic techniques; the resulting wines are available in the USA, UK (distributed by Dynamic Vines) and Ireland among many other places: more info @ www.domainechabanon.com

My notes and reviews below spring from four different occasions (hence the mix of 'new' and 'old' scoring systems), although I only met Alain for the first time at the "natural" wine fair in London in May 2011 (the wines with the 1-2-3 ‘scores’: see blurb on the right-hand column) and previously to that (reviewed with the old ‘100 point scale’) in March 2010 and March 2009 at the “Languedoc Millésimes” tasting road-show in the region; and further back into the mists of time at Millésime Bio 2008 organic wine show in Perpignan (Jan 08). To add one of my “interesting to note” themed comments, just for the hell of it, I’ve rated two vintages of Alain’s Campredon red higher than three of his more expensive L'Esprit de Font Caude (although two of these were unfinished cask samples). Perhaps because the latter is less approachable when young – although I wasn’t so wowed by the 2004 vintage tasted recently alongside his other wines, for some reason – or perhaps I’m just too facile?! Or perhaps a winemaker’s reasons for pricing certain wines aren’t always obvious… personal taste vs so-called ‘intrinsic’ quality? Funny old game this wine-tasting lark: answers on an e-card please…

2007 Trelans white vin de pays d’Oc (Vermentino, Chenin Blanc) – complex maturing toasty notes with honeyed and buttery overtones, still lively actually and long. 2 £10-£15
2008 Tremier Languedoc rosé (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache) – yeast-lees-y and rich with toasted red fruits, not sure about this style of rosé...
2008 Le Petit Merle aux Alouettes red vin de pays d’Oc (Merlot) – ‘sweet’ vs red peppery and herby aromas, quite concentrated vs fresh tight palate, nice style of Merlot actually. 1-2 £10-£15
2008 Campredon Coteaux du Languedoc (50% Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan) – really minty and spicy on the nose with enticing black cherry fruit, delicious elegant style with taut tannins/acidity and good length. 2+ £10-£15
2006 Campredon Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache Carignan) - nice smoky black cherry fruit with light coconut edges; extracted tight palate leading to very dry finish, but there’s good depth of fruit underneath. 89+
2009 Esprit de Font Caude (50/50 Syrah, Mourvèdre; cask sample) - concentrated and spicy with nice "sweet/savoury" profile, solid mouth-feel although quite subtle too vs tighter commanding finish. €25 87+
2008 L'Esprit de Font Caude (cask sample) - a bit closed and unrevealing although it has fair depth of spicy floral v riper fruit then firm texture. 87+
2004 L'Esprit de Font Caude (Syrah, Mourvèdre) – maturing smoky leather tones, concentrated and meaty with light wood grain vs still quite firm tannins. 1+ £15-£20
2007 Le Merle aux Alouettes vin de pays d’Oc (90% Merlot, 10% Carignan) – richer than the “little” version above with a tad of oak still coming through, quite concentrated / extracted even, closes up to unrevealing finish. 1-2? £15-£20


  1. Have to agree that the Campredon gives me by far the most pleasure these days. I still have some 2004, the first vintage. He used to make a Montpeyroux tradition blend but that stopped in 2000 which is a shame. The style of L'Esprit also changed at that time - the 1999 was delicious for example. Happy to accept that my taste has changed to reds that use less oak and are approachable when young.
    What can't be denied is that from your scores the RQP for the reds, Campredon aside, is poor.

  2. Hi Graham, know what you mean about oak: while I understand its potential 'role' in making fine reds, and certainly do like oak aged reds if done well, I'm also more and more with you on that one. RQP?? The 09 and 08 Esprit tasted here were en primeur samples, so I'd like to try those again sometime. Otherwise, a mix of 'scoring systems' probably doesn't help here: 1 is good, 2 very good, 3 excellent; although I did like his Merlot based wines, my 'scores' aren't so enthusiastic it does seem!

  3. RQP = rapport qualité prix basically French for value for money. The abbreviation doesn't seemed to be used much these days, if it ever was.
    Alain also makes a Grenache (mainly) Les Boissières that some regard as his best red, especially when it comes to "expression of terroir".

  4. You might have made that up, as I don't remember hearing anyone say it in the nearly 9 years I lived in France! The abbrev., I mean; the expression is common as you say. That Grenache sounds like a good tip, will look out for it.



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