I have tasted and enjoyed Xavier de Franssu's wines a couple of times at the Salon des Vignerons Indépendents in Paris, and so asked if I could visit. It is much more fun to see a vigneron in his cellar; it gives you the sense of place, which contributes so much in the appreciation of a wine. Xavier makes St. Chinian. He has a small cellar surrounded by twelve hectares of vines, planted on sandstone, with another 2.50 hectares on a limestone plateau. His first vintage was in 2004, three vats fermented in his garage, while most of his grapes went to the coop. The 2005 was vinified in his own cellar; the walls were in place, but it was open to the sky. He comes from the north, from Picardie, and studied in Montpellier, and spent two years looking for his vineyards. He had a very precise idea of what he wanted. He had fixed on an appellation of the southern Rhône or the Languedoc, and wanted somewhere that was bit isolated, where he could live on the estate, not in a village, and preferably with buildings already in existence. The previous owner had sent his grapes to the coop and had starting building a cellar, with a view to making his own wine, but then discovered that his daughter was not interested in helping, so he sold his vines instead.

Xavier has some 100 year old Carignan, as well as thirty year old Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Yields are low, 20 hl/ha, around the cellar. The soils are deeper on the plateau, with less drought effect. He has been converting to organic viticulture and was certified in 2009, and he has planted white varieties, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino – he already had one hectare of 60 years old Grenache, both Blanc and Gris. And more unusually he has also planted half a hectare of Albariňo, as well as Viognier and Petit Manseng for a vin de pays. This vineyard should come into production in 2013. And why Albariňo? He did a stage in Galicia, which is the home of Albariňo.

The cellar is simple and functional, with cement vats and barrels, and is part underground, to provide some natural insulation. And why Cynanque? It is a type of Clematis that you can find in the mountains, with white or pink flowers.

2010 Fleur de Cynanque, St. Chinian, Rosé 5.50€
70% Cinsaut, grown on limestone, and sandstone, pressed; 15% each Carignan and Grenache that are saigné. No malo – he doesn’t want it. Quite fresh and crisp with firm acidity. Dry raspberry fruit, with a certain weight and a delicate finish.

2008 Fleur de Cynanque, St. Chinian - 6.50€
Old Carignan dominates the blend, with 70%. 20% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Fermented and aged in cement. Some spicy fruit on the nose, red fruit, with the rustic quality of Carignan. Carignan needs at least four week maceration to enrober the tannins. Medium weight. Fresh fruit with a streak of tannin.

For St. Chinian the maximum percentage, in your vineyard, for Carignan is 30%, and for Cinsaut too, while Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, must make up a minimum of 70%. You must have 20% Grenache, but Syrah is not obligatory.

2008 St. Chinian, Plein Grès – 8.20€
The vines for Fleur de Cynanque are at a lower altitude, whereas those for Plein Grès come from higher plots – For Xavier, the wine expresses the sandstone in the appellation.

30% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, and 20% each of Carignan and Grenache. The Syrah, Carignan and Grenache fermented together in a concrete vat, and were then blended with overripe Carignan and Mourvèdre at the end of the harvest. 2008 was a drawn out harvest. The wine is quite ripe and rich, quite dense and rounded, a touch confit, with some hints of chocolate, and some rounded tannins. It should develop well.

2008 St. Chinian, Acutum – 12.00€
Acutum is the Latin name for the Cynanque family – I think I have got that right. A botanist out there can correct me. And the blend is 60% Syrah, which spends twelve months in wood, with 20% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre, aged in vat. Deep colour; quite solid and dense, firm and rounded, quite ripe. A hint of new wood, good body, youthful, ripe and rounded, and nicely englobé (another word that is impossible to translate into English) tannins. Xavier thinks that the Syrah responds well to wood.

2009 St. Chinian Amicytia – 16.00€
Mainly from Grenache grown on the limestone plateau, and just three old barriques, which amount to 1000 bottles. The name is a blend of amitié, typicité and Cynanque. The yield Is tiny, just 15 hl/ha. Xavier laughingly suggested that this was the Châteauneuf du Pape of St. Chinian. Twelve months in old wood, after a long cuvaison. Some lovely ripe cherry fruit, very perfumed, alcoholic cherries. Balanced by a mineral note.

2008 St. Chinian, Nominaris – 25.00€
The name is all to do with his family crest, – Fais bien et tu sera consideré; nomnaris means will be considered. A pure Syrah, which has spent two years in wood, including new wood. Overripe grapes. Deep colour. Solid dense nose; solid oak on the nose. Less obvious oak on palate. It all tasted a bit adolescent and needs time. I am not sure how long.

2010 Carignan, fermented in small open tonneaux - and tasted from a demi-muid. Grown on limestone. Good colour. Some cherry fruit and very ripe, but nicely integrated oak. Fraicheur, elegance, very gourmand; powerful but not heavy. A streak of acidity as well as tannin. Very intriguing.

2009 St. Chinian blanc, Althéa – 11.50€
Althéa was a Greek goddess, and the wife of Oenè, whence oenology. 40% Roussanne, with 30% Grenache Blanc – Grenache gris is not allowed, in theory in the appellation, but there is a little in the vineyard, and 30% Vermentino. Yield just 15 hl/ha
Quite a resinous nose, with a touch of fennel. Quite characterful, rounded white blossoms. Nice weight and body. The Vermentino gives some citrus notes and good acidity.

2008 Hesperides, a late harvest wine, made from raisined grapes, Grenache Blanc and Gris – 18.00€ for a 50 cl. bottle. They leave two or three bunches per vine and pick in early November, a couple of months after the main harvest. Xavier made just two small barrels. He just leaves it to ferment slowly; laughingly saying ça discute, for you can hear the wine murmuring if you put your ear to the barrel, and it stays in wood for a year or more. No sulphur. Filtered. A light golden, a touch of botrytis. Elegantly honeyed. Lovely fruit with acidity and honey, and a hint of orange. And a delicious finale to a lovely tasting.


Popular Posts