Thursday 4 June 2009

Old carignan - Domaine les Eminades

In my last post I started off by talking about some 107 year old Carignan vines but then got distracted and veered off into a history lesson. Where I meant to end up was talking about the wine made from said Carignan vines and the producer responsible for it, Luc Bettoni of Domaine Les Eminades in Cebezan.

I have to declare a personal and professional interest here. Luc and his wife Patricia are friends of mine and I have in the past sold their wines in the UK. So I may be a little biased. But everything that the Bettonis do is aimed at producing individual, concentrated, complex wines that express their terroir. Quality rather than quantity. Yields are kept low, they are currently in conversion to organic production, hand harvesting, barrel ageing for their top reds and white. 

Luc has just over 10 hectares of vines around the village of Cebezan in the heart of the St Chinian appellation. His first vintage was in 2002 and he makes a small but focussed range of St Chinian and Vin de Pays wines (including a sought-after barrel aged sauvignon blanc).  Their reds are not fruity, glugging wines. They reward bottle ageing, particularly Sortilege, their top St Chinian red which needs time to unfurl and reveal smoky, lingering dark fruit flavours. Also, as Luc does not fine or filter his wines, they are best decanted too.

But, back to the old Carignan. The age of the vines and the poor soil on the hillside means that yields are naturally low - a measly 28hl/ha. Hand picking, long maceration before pressing and 18 months in barrel have resulted in a big, rich wine (14,5%) with brooding flavours of plums and black cherry with hints of tar and a beguiling edge of vanilla. The tannins are present (this is carignan after all) but there is so much fruit here that they are balanced and the finish is long long long. The wine is aptly named 'vieilles canailles' or 'old rascal' which refers to the difficulty in tending gnarled old vines on the top of a steep hill. At 24 euros a bottle it is not cheap but it is very very good.

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