Tag Archives: Saint Chinian

Wine Love in Languedoc: Saint-Chinian AOC

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in Southern France remains the one that keeps calling me back, most recently, specificially Saint-Chinian AOC,  situated  around 60km east of Carcassone, 35km north of Narbonne. My first visit to the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon was  in May 2014, where I spent some time amongst the old Carignan vines of the rolling hills of Minervois with negociant Calmel and Joseph, tasting a comprehensive selection of some of the best Languedoc-Roussillon red wines around. I was back in January 2015, this time to charismatic Montpellier to visit Natural Wine Fest Milleseme Bio and meet some of Languedoc’s most enterprising independent wine producers ‘Les Outsiders‘.

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

But, this side of the summer, I was lucky enough to spend a few sunny days visiting many vineyards, meeting even more wine producers and tasting a vast amount of Saint-Chinian AOC wines all accompanied by my very lovely guide from the St Chinian tourist office, Nelly.

Saint-Chinian isn’t just one appellation, but three. The areas around the highly regarded and very picturesque villages of Roquebrun and Berlou, hold their own appellation statuses, Saint-Chinian Roquebrun AOC and Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC. Although the wines aren’t necessarily better than a straight Saint-Chinian AOC (most  is grown in similar ‘terroir’ and tastes just as good), the village named wines are guaranteed to come from high quality grapes grown on the sought after hilly, schisty, less fertile soils north of the river Vernazobre and the village of Saint-Chinian itself.

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One of many tasted prior to lunch.

I like a lot about these Saint-Chinian appellation wines. From a practical standpoint, I like that most actually have a back label, often so lacking in French wine, telling you what’s in the bottle.  It should tell you about grape varieties and, something to look out for, likely to mention the ‘schisty’ soil and ‘foothills’ or altitude, important factors distinguishing the AOC wines from the lower-quality, bulk, non-appellation wines of the flatter plains further south.

I like the blends. The whites are dry and tend to have a bit of body, some tropical fruitiness and some minerality. Tending to contain Viognier (the oakier ones are the best in my mind), Vermentino (or Rolle, as it is known locally), Rousanne and Marsanne, the main player is Grenache Blanc, which has to be at least 30% of the blend.

Like most AOC Languedoc wines, nine out of ten Saint-Chinian AOC wines are however red wines, blended from Carignan (often old vine, low yield – of which I am particularly partial to), Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and must contain 70% of the latter three. More Mourvedre makes for a heavier wine, Syrah brings spice, Grenache; juiciness. More Carignan tends to produce, a very palatable, more medium bodied, lower tannin, versatile wine which works well without food (just like the Calmel and Joseph Saint-Chinian).

But just as importantly, I like the personality and charm of these wines and that the vast majority of the wine producers, whether they are negociants, co-ops or independent, really seem to care about the wines. They care about the vines in the vineyard and the fact that the grapes take on flavour characteristics of the ‘garrigue’ of lavender, bay, thyme, rosemary situated amongst the vines. Many wines are ‘organic’, even if they are not formally labelled that way with many winemakers choosing not to bother with the cost or faff of registration, concentrating of the actual wine rather than paperwork.  Most care about how and when the grapes are harvested, the way the wine is fermented, blended and aged. This is pure and precise wine making without pretension but from a passion and love of wine, very much in harmony with the beautiful region that they are made in.

Not only are these producers making some of the best wine from Languedoc-Roussillon, whilst Saint-Chinian remains relatively unknown, these wines are relatively inexpensive compared to some of their better known French relatives therefore offer real value, although that that may not remain the case for long!

Feel the love!

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

* An appellation is the French term for a designated wine producing area whose wine meets a certain number of criterior e.g. yield, grape varieties, blend. AOC stands for ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ or Controlled name of Origin.

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Move over Corbieres, step in Faugeres…

photo (4)Please do come and visit Perfect Friday Wine this Saturday 5th April (not March as I’d previously stated in an email communication!) on Maidenhead High Street. The first Saturday of the month is always bustling with most of the usual traders down there, so come and support your local market! Bring a copy of my latest article in local freebie magazine, ‘Life Etc’, to receive 5% off any purchase. The article can also be viewed on pg38 here if you’ve already ‘filed’ yours in the recycling bin, I will be testing you to check that you’ve read it. 🙂
If you can’t get down, I am currently taking orders for delivery on Friday 4th April – don’t forget FREE local delivery to Maidenhead. Please note that as of Sunday, 4 of the wines* will be increasing in price, so get your orders to me by Saturday to take advantage of today’s prices. To soften the blow, any order of 6 or more bottles (was 12) will now attract a 5% discount.
 So you can try before you buy, I will have the following 3 wines open for tasting  this coming Saturday;
  • faugeres2-360x1335 Calmel and Joseph ‘Les Terroirs’ Faugeres 2012 *NEW AND IN STOCK* £10.50 I have decided to not stock the Corbieres (2 bottles are still up for grabs) over summer, but in its place steps the structured and almost minty, Faugeres, also from Languedoc in France. A similar blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan to the versatile St.Chinian but TOTALLY different reflecting the difference in where the vines are grown (the terroir). This one is wilder and more rigid with some fabulous meaty tannins and a big punch of ripe plums. If you’ve ever seen the term ‘garrigue’ mentioned in a tasting note, this has that exact sentiment of lavender, rosemary and a hint of eucalyptus. Great with barbecued minted lamb chops or my favourite Spag Bol.
  • Villa Blanche Grenache Gris Rosé  (Languedoc, France) Dry, delicate with raspberry fruit, welcome acidity and a lingering finish. *NOW IN STOCK* £8.50 (rising to £9 on 6th April, as will the other Villa Blanche wines). Another chance to try my much anticipated Rosé now it’s actually here.
  • Calmel and Joseph Languedoc White *NOT YET AVAILABLE, FEEDBACK REQUESTED* I’ve been looking for a Marsanne/ Rousanne blend for a while and then as if to read my mind, my trusty Calmel and Joseph release the very same! I am very excited to taste this typical white Rhone blend and would love to hear my customer’s thoughts before I add it to the wine list (£10-10.50). If it’s no good (which I doubt), I’ll be opening my new Comenge Verdejo 2012 instead.
Since Bank Holiday season, will shortly be upon us, I have added some new Spring wines by the case, one ‘Summer’s Coming 6’ (£61.75) inspired by my husband’s recent order (yup, that’s right, I make him pay 🙂 ), the other ‘Spring Forward 6’ (£62.70) by my most popular wines sold in March, so if you need inspiration for a case, these are designed to help.
 
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support of a new and local independent business. I put a lot of thought into reviewing the wine list and finding interesting and exciting, well-priced wines to add to the portfolio and continue  to aim to introduce you to wines that make a change to the usual Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and Aussie Shiraz. I welcome your feedback too, so drop me a line and tell me what you’d like to see next. Do please get involved on Facebook too, I love to hear what you’ve been drinking!
*Although I’ve kept the Villa Blanche and Pierre Paillard wines priced lower than the RRP for as long as I can, Mr Osborne’s latest duty increase has tipped me over the point of no return and price increases will be in place as of Sunday 6th April. Villa Blanche wines will be increased to the RRP of £9, the champagne will increase to £28. I have been searching high and low for a new sub £9 range but am yet to find one worthy of PFW. Orders taken before Sunday and delivered by 12th April will take advantage of today’s prices.

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Filed under France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Maidenhead, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing, Wine Tasting