Thursday 15 January 2009

Domaine Moulinier, St Chinian

I have come across this estate many times over the last few years. As a frequent visitor to Espace Vin, a good wine merchant in St Chinian which is owned by the Moulinier family, I've tasted their wines several times. And is hard to miss their smart new winery as it is in full view as you drive over the pass into the beautiful St Chinian valley. However my first visit to the actual estate was not until this week, on  a freezing January day, and for an appointment that (for various reasons) I had rearranged several times. Stéphane Moulinier, an amiable, chatty young man with a rugby-player physique was there to meet me and he could not have been more welcoming and generous with his time.

The story of the estate starts in 1981 when Guy Moulinier, Stéphane's father, abandoned a career in the civil service to return to his Languedocienne roots. He took over 8 hectares of vines from his maternal grandfather which had been providing fruit for the local co-op , ripped out the vines(mainly Aramon and Carignan) and commenced on a planting programme which focused firmly on Syrah, with some Grenache and Mourvèdre. In fact he was the first in St Chinian to plant syrah in 1981 and it now accounts for 70% of the vineyard at Moulinier.  Today the estate encompasses 20ha of vines, 4ha of olives (Moulinier means ‘olive grower’ in Occitan) and a shiny new wine cave which was built in 2001.

There are 3 terroirs on the estate. On the other side of the valley, near the road towards Berlou, the terroir is schist. Right next to the winery there is more sandstone, with some flint whilst the other side of the domaine is limestone. There is attention to detail at all stages: all the grapes are handharvested, destemmed, lightly crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation is controlled to about 25°C and instead of pumping over, they practice delestage which extracts maximum fruit and colour without overworking the grapes and extracting bitter tannins. Their impressive barrel cellar contains barrels only from the Vicard cooperage - if it works, why change it?- and their top wine, Les Terrasses Grillées, typically spends 15 months in oak, a third of it new.

The range of wines (all AOC St Chinian) chez Moulinier is succinct. My notes are equally so as it was so cold I could barely hold a pen!

A pale pink, fruity, quaffing rosé - exactly as rosés should be - provides cash flow. 50/50 Grenache/Syrah. 

The Tradition red both in tank and bottle is abundant in berried fruit, a hint of spice and nicely managed tannins. Properly priced at €6.

Les Sigillaires 2005 . Sigillaires means 'plant fossil' and there are many examples of these, as well as dinosaur eggs and bronze age arrow heads, in the estate's tasting room. 

Slight licquorice, almost medicinal nose. Attractive round fruit on palate. Good balance of fruit and oak, round tannins, good length.

Les Terrasses Grillées 2006. From schistous soils.

Smoky nose, oak. Very concentrated, pure peppery fruit. Grip to tannins. Lovely length. Very pure.

2003 Terrasses Grillé

Broad, leathery fruit, grippy tannins, good length. Quite butch but good balance. Perfect for drinking now.

Terrasses Grilleé 2000

n. Olive, green pepper, licquorice

Very good concentration of leathery, gamy fruit. Smoke, pepper. Needs time to evolve. Fine grained tannins. Good length. Classy stuff.

There is clearly much attention to detail here and an unwillingness to compromise on wine quality. And the Mouliniers are not afraid to experiment with different projects, such as their fruity `Homo Erectus`red and the wine merchant in St Chinian. Stéphane was reluctant to talk about these and I sensed that he felt they were distractions from the real job. Which is making bloody good wine.



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