Monday, October 02, 2006

The wines of AOC St. Chinian

St. Chinian is perhaps one of the lesser known appellations of Southern France, however as I discovered on a recent trip, if the producers in this sun drenched region continue to create wines of the quality that they currently are then it won’t be too long before bargain hunting Brits look here rather than to a pricier region. What they’ll find are some really excellent wines, produced by true artisans with a love and passion for their vines and their terroir, but there are some hurdles to overcome yet.
The first thing anyone should know about the region is that it’s producers are absolutely terroir mad, and this is largely because within the one appellation there are 2 major soil types, to the North of the region Schiste and to the South, clay/limestone and to further complicate this these two terroirs are separated by a seam of sandstone running the length of the appellation. Winemakers on both terroirs will insist that their soil type is the superior, and for the consumer this can add to the confusion – what it means is that there isn’t a single St. Chinian style.
Add in that many of the grape varieties will be unknown to the average punter who will never have heard of Carignan, Cinsault or possible Mourvedre and it’s hardly surprising why todays wine buyer gives St. Chinian a miss.
We started out tour looking at a number of the wines produced from Schiste vineyards in both Roquebrun and Berlou where generally speaking it is the cooperatives that rule the roost with one or two small producers making some excellent wines.
We met Pierre in passing at the La Baume winery, who with a wink and a nod ran off to find a bottle of wine he had opened the previous evening which we simply “had to taste”!, he came back shortly after with a bottle he promised would knock our socks off from Berlou a short drive from where we were staying, “Mas au Schiste” produced by Domaine Rimpert


Anonymous said...

Is that you in the middle? Your eyes look really evil (and you're in desperate need of a shave! (I can't remember my username - but I'm sure you can guess who I am....)

timmyc said...

Ah - my sister - who else!
Eyes are probably because the room was lit very dull and the shaving thing - well I shaved every day on holiday - so it's only what had grown that day!