CLOS BAGATELLE in St. Chinian
This is another of the old estates of St. Chinian. You really can’t miss it as you drive out of St. Chinian towards St. Pons. Since they have taken over the family vineyards, Christine Simon, and her brother, Luc have increased their holding to 35 hectares, including 8 hectares of Muscat in St. Jean de Minervois, and 15 hectares in an area called Donnadieu in the northern part of the appellation of St. Chinian.
Christine is bright and vivacious, and treated us to a very comprehensive tasting. I was with my tasting buddy, Lits, while my artist friend Sue, who had come along for the scenery, painted a watercolour. First we had a look at the cellar, with its old foudres, as well as the usual barrels, concrete vats and stainless steel tanks. There is a welcoming tasting room and shop.
2010 St. Chinian Blanc – 7.00€
Roussanne is the base, grown on grès, or sandstone, with Grenache blanc, grown on schist and Carignan blanc on clay and limestone. There is also a drop of Vermentino and Chenin blanc, and next year there will be some Petit Manseng. I did not enquire too closely into the fact that Petit Manseng does not feature in the appellation decree. All are fermented together and 20% of the blend spends two months in new oak, with a lot of lees stirring. The nose was redolent of fragrant white blossom, with some lovely perfume on the palate and very good mouth feel. It was nicely understated and the oak was beautifully integrated. White wine has only become part of the appellation recently, so this cuvée is relatively new.
2010 Donnadieu St. Chinian rosé – 5.70€
Cinsaut, Grenache and a little Syrah. Very pale colour; delicate nose and quite rounded A touch of boiled sweets.
2010 Les 3 Louloutes, St. Chinian – 5.90€
Christine jokingly explained that the name refers to three little girls, her daughter Marie, otherwise known as Riri, and her cousins Camille and Juliette – Camillou and JuJu! The blend is 60% Cinsaut with Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Medium colour. Quite rounded leathery nose. Some perfumed fruit. Medium weight. Lovely ripe fruit. Youthful. Would make a delicious vin de soif when slightly chilled.
2010 Clos Bagatelle St. Chinian – 4.90€
40% Syrah, with Carignan, Grenache and 15% Mourvèdre. Grown on clay and limestone. Quite deep colour. Quite rounded ,with good fruit and some leathery tannins. Medium weight.
Christine explained that the Donnadieu vineyards are on schist, but a different type of schist from that of Faugères. I am afraid that the precise geological niceties are lost on me.
2009 Camille-Juliette, St. Chinian – 5.70€
Forty per cent Grenache and Carignan, with some Syrah. Élevage in foudres and vat. Very perfumed nose, with hints of orange. Medium weight. A certain minerality on the palate.
Was still very youthful when I tasted it, now a few months ago, but with some firm spicy on the nose and palate, and quite a tannic streak. Lovely fresh fruit.
2010 Mathieu and Marie, St. Chinian – 6.50
40% Syrah, with Carignan and Grenache. Christine explained that she planted the Syrah when Mathieu was born. Camille & Juliette is more mineral, while Mathieu and Marie is more fruits noirs. I did indeed find rounded black fruit – blackberries, cassis and black cherries on the nose. And the palate was ripe and rounded, with an edge of tannin. The élevage is only in vat.
2010 Domaine des 4 Vents, IGP Hérault – 4.90€
A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc with Grenache and Mourvèdre. Quite rounded and ripe with a youthful tannic edge.
2007 Veillée d’Automne, St. Chinian – 9.00€
Quite firm and quite structured. A hint of orange on the nose. And some perfumed notes on the palate. Quite tannic. 2009 was quite a hot year, so this is quite sturdy.
2005 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian – 21.00€
They had originally called this cuvée La Gloire de Mon Père, but the Pagnol family – Marcel Pagnol being the author of La Gloire de Mon Père and Le Château de Ma Père – complained. A blend of 40% Syrah on schist, 40% Mourvèdre on clay and limestone and 20% Grenache on schist. Spends time in new wood, with a total of eighteen months ageing. Medium colour. Orange notes on the nose. Quite tannic and rounded and solid.
2006 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian – 21.00€
I much preferred this, and Christine concurred that 2006 was a better balanced vintage than 2005. Deep colour; quite a firm nose. Quite perfumed with fresh fruit; a tannic streak but more supple than 2005, which was more concentrated.
2007 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian
60% Syrah in this, so a higher percentage than in 2005 or 2006. Quite perfumed oak, again with an orange note on the nose. Some balsamic notes on the palate. Quite rounded with nicely integrated oak. Youthful. Comes between 2005 and 2006 in taste.
2004 Je me souviens, St. Chinian – 40€
80% Grenache with 20% Mourvèdre They first made this cuvée in 202 when the Mourvèdre as particularly good, and in 2004 the Grenache showed very well. Since then they have made a 2007 and 2009. It spends 20 months in new wood.
Quite rounded and intense. Very harmonious. Very youthful. Belle matière with a good balance.
While I admire Christine and her brother for pushing the boundaries with their St. Chinian, partly of me really enjoyed the simplicity of more accessible wines. Christine herself admits that they need more experience with oak élevage – it’s a compliment to the wine, but you need to work out which oak and degree of toasting suits your wine. They work with various coopers, Francois Frères, Taransaud, Demy and Demptos, and there is also a cooper nearby who will renovate foudres.
And then we moved on to Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois.
2010 Grain de Lumière 7.00€ for 50cls.
The first pressing of the Muscat, with 120 gms/l residual sugar. Pale colour; very perfumed very supple, some lemony notes and a fresh finish. No alcohol burn.
2009 Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois – 6.00€ for 50cls.
125 gms/l of residual sugar, from older vines and several pressings. This was more traditional in style, heavier and richer and more concentrated