Many sommeliers and critics will tell you that Languedoc-Roussillon's emerging appellations offer some of the best value around. Chris Mercer reports from a Decanter hosted tasting sponsored by Saint-Chinian's wine body, and Tim Atkin MW picks his top five wines.
The first Saint-Chinian wines gained appellation status back in 1982, but the past decade has been arguably the most dramatic, as it has also for nearby areas such as Faugeres or Pic-Saint-Loup.
‘The different terroirs of Languedoc have always existed but they have started to emerge,’ said Nelly Belot, head of Saint-Chinian AOC wines association – or PGI in new Eurocrat speak.
It has been a hard road for Languedoc, France’s biggest producing region. When the EU began paying winemakers to rip out vines and drain Europe’s ‘wine lake’ several years ago, Languedoc was one of its biggest customers.
But, the area’s underdog status has also proved its advantage, some producers argue. ‘There has been a huge evolution in quality,’ Belot told Decanter.com on the sidelines of a Saint-Chinian wine tasting co-hosted by producers and Decanter at Vintners’ Hall, London. ‘We use the same grapes [Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Grenache], but better techniques.’
It is the sort of area becoming interesting to sommeliers looking for better value on restaurant lists.
And relatively cheap land prices in Languedoc mean that young winemakers are finding a voice. ‘Every year, more young people are starting up,’ Belot said. Vineyards cost around €8,000 per hectare on average.
Here are Tim Atkin MW‘s top picks from this week’s Decanter tasting event that included more than 60 Saint-Chinian wines:
Mas Champart, Blanc, Saint Chinian 2014
92 points /100
Floral, herbal, waxy, spicy, pear and baked apple notes, with subtle vanilla oak and a textured, yet refreshing finish. Alc 13.5%
Clos Bagatelle, Je me souviens, Saint Chinian 2013
Complex, garrigue and rose petal aromas, subtle oak, harmonious red fruits and filigree tannins. Long, sweet and chalky, this is one of the Languedoc’s best red wines. Alc 14%
Stockist: Maison des Vins, €42
Domaine La Linquière, 310 La Sentenelle, Saint-Chinian 2013
The comparative altitude of the wine, combined with a schist-based terroir makes this a very distinctive style – massively aromatic with thyme and rosemary aromas, pepper spice, medium weight tannins and impressive minerality, underpinned by dense, blackberry fruit. Alc 14.5%
Stockist: Contact winery / €18
Cave de Roquebrun, Seigneur d’Aupenac, Saint-Chinian Roqueburn 2011
A soft, juicy, Syrah-based cuvée with aromatic, carbonic maceration notes. Lavender, Rosemary and juniper, pepper and nutmeg spice and subtle integrated oak. Alc 14%
Borie la Vitarèle, Les Schistes, Saint-Chinian 2013
A comparatively elegant, schist-based blend of Syrah and Grenache, with refined tannins and elegant, spicy bramble and raspberry fruit. This is all about fruit precision rather than oak. Alc 14.5%
Vintages may vary. Stockist search aided by Wine-Searcher.com
This tasting was sponsored by Saint-Chinian wines.