The Roquebrun cooperative

The cave cooperative of Roquebrun in the appellation of St. Chinian consistently wins prizes in the various tasting competitions,  The Top 100 and Decanter’s World Wine Awards, amongst others.  It has been a while since I visited, and time for an update.   A look at the cellar was not possible; they are in the middle of building works, removing asbestos from the original construction.   However, there have been other recent investments in the cellar, concentrating on carbonic maceration, the selection of juice – with three different qualities of Syrah, and also the bottling line.  The director and wine maker, Alain Rogier was much preoccupied, but we were given a very comprehensive tasting by his right hand man, Daniel Marusinski.   Alain has run the cooperative since 1987.

The cooperative is now responsible for 650 hectares, with 80 members.  Forty of them account for 80% of the production and they make three appellations, Coteaux du Languedoc, St. Chinian and St. Chinian Roquebrun, the cru that was recognised in 2005.   The vineyards are mainly lutte raisonnée, with no one doing organic viticulture.  There are four independent producers in the village, Thierry Navarre, Mas d’Albo, Domaine Boissezon-Guiraud and Domaine Marquise des Mures.    The cooperative, not surprisingly, accounts for about 90% of the production of the village. 

Daniel explained that the key characteristics of the cooperative’s wines come from  Syrah, vinified by carbonic maceration, which does indeed give some very distinctive flavours, making for wines with immediate appeal, especially in the context of a competition.    They are very good at making wines for easy drinking, what he called très charmeur.  The carbonic maceration makes for supple tannins, and they also use micro-oxygenation to good effect.  Syrah accounts for the bulk of their vineyards, with 450 hectares, and they have just 50 hectares of Carignan, with the balance Grenache Noir, some Mourvèdre and Cinsaut, and some Roussanne and Grenache Blanc for white wine.  Syrah tends to have much less acidity than Carignan, and responds differently to carbonic maceration.  Daniel talked about their philosphie de Syrah, making wines that are immediately drinkable, with less ageing potential than some.  All their bottles have the distinctive logo of the Cave de Roquebrun, with an outline of the village.  

2014 Coteaux du Languedoc  blanc, Chemin des Olivettes, and in the coop shop Col de Lairole  - 4.50€
60% Grenache Blanc, with Roussanne.  Classic vinification with no oak, but some skin contact and a long fermentation.  The Roussanne gives more depth of character.  Quite closed white blossom nose.  Nicely textured palate with good acidity and a slightly bitter finish.  

2014 St Chinian blanc, Col de la Serre – 6.60€
Again Grenache Blanc with some Roussanne.  Quite rounded and nicely textured with soft acidity.  More weight than the Coteaux du Languedoc and a harmonious finish.

2014 Chemin des Olivettes.  Coteaux du Languedoc  Rosé.
50% Syrah, 35% Grenache Noir, 15% Cinsaut.  Saigné after four to six hours.  Prefermentation maceration à froid for five or six days; débourbage, and then some bâtonnage during fermentation to develop the aromas.  Quite a deep orange pink colour.  Rounded nose; but I found the palate quite heavy and solid, though not especially alcoholic.  13˚.  Dry finish, a bit flat.   

2014 St. Chinian Rosé, Clos de l’Orb
65% Syrah, 35% Grenache Noir. All saigné.  Quite a light colour.  A rounded nose and a satisfying rounded palate, with not a lot of acidity.  Harmonions finish.

2014 Chemin des Olivettes Rouge, Coteaux du Languedoc. – 4.50€
30% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 35% Carignan.  Medium colour.  Young spicy fruit.  Quite rounded ripe easy spicy fruit, balanced with a streak of tannin.  Rounded but not heavy, and vinified mainly by carbonic maceration.

2014 St Chinian Rouge, Terrasses de Mayline – 6.30€
30% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre and 30% Carignan.  Good deep young colour.  Some ripe spice on nose and palate.  Medium weight but good depth.  Supple tannins.  A dry finish, but easy appeal.

2014 St. Chinian Col de la Serre – 6.50€
Deep colour.  Deeper than Terrasses de Mayline.  A little more structure with a firmer nose and palate.  A tannin streak and dry finish, and less immediate spiciness.

2013 St Chinian-Roquebrun, la Grange des Combes – 8.60€
50% Syrah, made by carbonic maceration, with 30% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre, aged in vat.  Deep colour.  Ripe dry spice on the nose.  Rounded fruit and spice with a streak of tannin.  Medium weight.  Youthful rounded and complete, with good depth.   The difference between Roquebrun and St Chinian is the higher percentage of Syrah.   And the wines must be kept until January 1st two years after the harvest, so the 2014s will be sold in 2016.

2013 St Chinian-Roquebrun,  Terrasses de la Rocanière – 9.70€  Also known as Roches Noires
60% Syrah with 20% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre, aged in vat.   Good deep young colour.  Some dry spice on nose and palate. Quite firm with structure and depth.  Ripe spicy black fruit with a balancing tannic streak, and a youthful finish. 

2012 Grand Canal – also known Fiefs d’Aupenac, after a seigneur of the village. – 12.90€
60% Syrah, with 20% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre.  Aged in barriques.  Deep colour.  A nose of black fruit and tapenade and on the palate ripe and rich with plenty of spice.  Quite alcoholic at 14.5.  Quite intense.  Some tannin and hints of vanilla, with a dry finish.

2012 Golden Vines, St Chinian-Roquebrun – 16.30€
65% Syrah, a selection of the best plots.   With 20% Grenache Noir and 15% Mourvèdre.  Made for the first time in 2011.  Includes some 60 – 70 year old vines.  14 months ageing in wood.  Very deep colour. Rich spicy and intense.  Black fruit and tapenade with some tannin, and again a very intense palate, with quite a firm finish. 

But not all their wines are Syrah dominant.  We finished with 2011 Sir de Roc Brun – 12.90€
60% Mourvèdre, with 20% Syrah and 20% Grenache Noir, aged in wood, and blended after élevage.  Quite a deep colour, with a firmer nose and more structure.  It tasted cooler and fresher than the Syrah dominant wines, with a satisfying finish. 

I was left with an impression of a cooperative that was working very well for its appellation and its village.    And then we adjourned to the Cave St. Martin for lunch.    This is another reason for visiting Roquebrun.   It describes itself as an épicerie, bar à vin nature, with a small restaurant, in the summer on a terrace overlooking the Orb.  The owners have recently employed a new chef, who concentrates on local produce.   We shared entrées, enjoying  some Spanish ham, home-made paté, marinated mackerel and a rice and tuna salad, washed down with a glass of Ribeyrenc Blanc from Thierry Navarre, followed by a glass of Temps des Cerises, made by Axel Prűfer, who as coincidence would have it, walked into the restaurant just as we enjoying his wine. 


Bob Rossi said…
Very enjoyable post. About 10 years ago we rented a house across the road from the cooperative, and drank a lot of their wines that week. They were almost uniformly enjoyable, especially the reds. We also had several wines from Thierry Navarre, which we loved. I wish that La Cave St. Martin was around then; we could have avoided the dreadful restaurant where we had lunch.

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