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17 September 2023

Languedoc: Saint Chinian

Vieussan from saint-chinian.com.

The Saint-Chinian region lies between Béziers and Minervois and northwards to the jagged hills at the bottom of the Massif Central. It stretches from the villages of Quarante to Vieussan south to north, and from Murviel-lès-Béziers to Ferrières-Poussarou east to west; a vast area of about 40 by 30 kilometres. So, the idea that all wines produced in this appellation represent and express one distinct namesake terroir or 'taste of place' is a stretch.
However, there is a convincing argument that different zones exist within it reflecting particular vineyards where landscape, terrain and climate are consistent enough to convey some kind of collective sense and character to the wines. The Orb river also conveniently divides it into two or three parts, where geology does vary accordingly (more schist and hillier in the north, more limestone and flatter to the south).
At the end of the day, there are plenty of diverse, and similar, good-quality wines to discover here, there and everywhere, which is of course what counts for people looking for new wines to try. Obviously, local winegrowers-makers had to label them as something, so why not Saint-Chinian as their unifying name which is a pleasant small town in the middle of it, more or less, as well as a good base for scenic wine touring.
This selection (listed by vintage) of 24 Saint-Chinian white and red wines worthy of attention were sampled on a spring trip to the Languedoc. There's also a couple of recommended Saint-Chinian rosés in this Languedoc vs Roussillon rosé report. The white wines might surprise anyone who hasn't tasted any from here: generally, of consistently high standard.
The reds come in all shapes, sizes, styles and excitements: something for everyone out of a big melting pot. Some of the older vintages stood out especially showing their age-worthy-ness including 2019, which doesn't seem to be such a success in other Languedoc or Roussillon regions from what I've tasted.

WHITE WINES

Clos Bagatelle 2022 (13.5% abv) - Whole-bunch pressed, Roussanne and Carignan Blanc fermented and stored in vats; Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Viognier aged in new casks for 2 months with lees' stirring. Aromatic and exotic fruits at the same time with delicious fleshy vs fresh texture. €11-€12 France, Germany, Belgium. €16 Sweden. £14.50-£17.50 UK. Image: boutinot.com.
Foncalieu Petit Paradis 2022 - 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Marsanne, 20% Vermentino; small portion spent 6 months in oak. Intensely aromatic almost Sauvignon style characters, crisp green fruits then oily mouthfeel, another tasty dry white. €10-€11 France. €11-€13 Netherlands, Belgium. £10-£13 UK.
Domaine des Jougla Eime de Vinha 2022 (organic) - 50% Vermentino, 40% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier; aged 3 months in barriques. Oily and rich texture, rounded palate yet with nice 'mineral' finish. €13.60-€15.10 France and Belgium.
Domaine La Linquière Fleur de Lin 2022 (13.5% abv) - Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, 3 months in oak. Peachy aromas and flavours with lovely long zesty finish. €10.50-€12 France. Also: UK, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland.
Domaine Marion Pla Les Larmes de Jeanne 2022 (organic) - Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, kept on fine lees before bottling. Again offers enticing richness of fruit and texture while zingy and intense too. Also very good. €9.50-€11 France, Belgium.
Cave de Berlou Terre de Loup Schisteil 2022 - Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Full-on nose with yeast-lees notes, crisp yet weighty palate at the same time, very enjoyable and great value. €7.50-€8 France.
Château Viranel Intuition 2022 - 15% of the blend fermented in barriques, stored and stirred on lees for 3 months. Yeast-lees tones, zesty and aromatic, appealing 'chalky' texture to finish. Good stuff. €12 France.

RED WINES

Domaine Terres 2 Frères Empreintes 2022: Syrah and Grenache (organic). Attractive Syrah-led style, quite rich with chalky tannins lending a firm-ish palate yet plenty of chunky fruit too. €14 France. Image: terres2freres.com.
Les Coteaux de Rieutort Schistes en Velours 2022: From the co-op cellar in Murviel-lès-Béziers. 85% Syrah, 15% Grenache. Appealing aromatic and spicy fruit, very drinkable already. €9.60 France.
Les Eminades La Pierre Plantée 2022 (13% abv): Syrah, Cinsault (60+ year-old vines) and Grenache (organic). Quite structured firm and fresh mouthfeel balanced by tasty fruit and rounded tannins. €11-€13 France. €13-€14 Belgium, Germany. €21 Ireland. $25 US.
Clos Bagatelle Au fil de soi 2022: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; 1 year in cask. Fairly concentrated while fruity and fresh, structured palate but with supple textured tannins. Very promising. €15-€18 France. £17.69 UK. $25 US/CA.

Clos Bagatelle Donnadieu 2021 (13.5% abv): Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignan; no oak. Vibrant concentrated black fruits, wild herbs and spice, firm fresh palate with softening tannins and lingering flavours. €11-€14 France, Belgium, Germany. $16.50-$17.50 Canada. £15-£17 UK. F13.50 Switzerland. Also: US and Netherlands.
Fortant Sélections Parcellaires 2021: Syrah and Grenache vinified in the same way, Mourvèdre separately; 6 months on the lees before bottling. Tasty maturing aromas and flavours, a bit of tannin adding structure, drinking well now. €9 France. £13.50 UK. NZD $28.00.
Domaine La Madura Canopé 2021 (13.5% abv): Mourvèdre (32%), Grenache (13%), Carignan (9%) - many of them old bush vines - and Syrah (46%); Syrah and Mourvèdre malolactic fermentation in barriques then left on lees for a year. More concentrated than their appealing Classic red with good depth of fruit, chalky tannins and a hint of oak texture. €22-€24 France and Belgium. US $37 (Chicago). CHF 28.50-35.

Domaine des Jougla Ancestrale 2020 (13% abv): 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache. Enticingly maturing and savoury, rich yet subtle palate, very good (and value) and might age more. €10 France and Netherlands.
Domaine La Croix Sainte-Eulalie Armandélis 2020: 80% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre (organic), aged 1 year in cask. Spicy peppery nose with rustic hints, good depth of fruit and concentration. €12.50-€14 France, Belgium, Germany.
Château Bousquette Pruneyrac 2020: 50% Grenache, 50% Mourvèdre (organic); no oak. Powerful and concentrated, maturing fruit with spicy minty tones, tasty. €9.50-€11 France, Germany. €14 Netherlands, Belgium. Also Switzerland.

Mas Champart
Côte d'Arbo 2019 (14% abv): 35% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan/Cinsault, 15% Mourvèdre; 18 months in vat before bottling without fining. Maturing nicely with dried wild herb and liquorice notes, quite fine with well-textured tannins. France €11.50-€13.90. £12.50 UK (Wine Society). €13.50-€15.50 Belgium. $22.50 Canada. Also: US importer Kermit Lynch. Germany, Korea.
Mas de Cynanque Amphyèdre 2019 (organic): Mostly Mourvèdre vinified in sandstone amphorae. Lovely rich spicy wine, concentrated finish, very good. The second dearest red on tasting, so it should be. €33 France, Belgium. CHF35-39 Switzerland. Kr420 Norway. I also liked their less expensive 2019 Acutum (€15).
Domaine de Pech-Ménel
Château Vallouvières 2019 (14.5% abv): Mourvèdre 70% and Grenache 30%, no oak. Delicious nose mixing maturing savoury vs wild herby notes, chunky and full-bodied while softening nicely. €16-€17 France and Belgium.
Château Castigno Secret des Dieux 2019 (organic/biodynamic): Grenache (15 months in concrete vats and 5 months in stainless), Syrah and Carignan (partly 19 months in used barriques, partly concrete vats). Attractive mature red for drinking now. €18-€21 France and Belgium.
Château La Dournie Elise 2019 (organic): Mostly Syrah with Grenache; 12 months in cask, 12 months in vat. Mature and earthy nose, good depth of fruit and palate with lingering liquorice and spice flavours. €19.50 France. Older vintages: £22 UK. AUS $52-55. €17-€21 Belgium.
Domaine La Bosque
Cayenne 2019: mostly Grenache, Carignan; 12 months in stainless tank, no fining. Concentrated with more of those delicious liquorice and spice aromas and flavours, nice softening tannins, lingering finish. Good value for quality: €14-€15.50 France, Belgium. CHF19.50. China Vineland Agency.

Domaine de Pech-Ménel Château Pech-Ménel 2015 (14% abv): Syrah and Grenache, no oak. Lovely mature red, complex and accomplished. €19-€21 France and Belgium. Also USA.

Other recent Languedoc stuff: Fitou.

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