Languedoc is one of the most important wine-producing regions in France, but the large area offers a range of micro-climates suitable for growing distinct grapes and making different wine styles. The warm Mediterranean coast couldn’t be more different 33 kilometres inland, in the elevated hills that mark the beginning of the Massif Central. That’s where Saint-Chinian lies, in the elevated, rocky soils overlooking the entire region.
Source of wine since ancient times, Saint-Chinian might be a small appellation of 3,000 hectares producing 105,000 hl of wine annually. Still, producers make red, white and rosé wine, and the quality is so high that two sub-regions have earned their own appellations for red wine: Saint-Chinian Berlou and Saint-Chinian Roquebrun.
Officially established in 1982, Saint-Chinian was initially only a source for red and rosé but can produce white wine since 2005. With a fantastic community of winemakers, Saint-Chinian has established itself as one of the best appellations in Languedoc. With an unmatched terroir blessed by both the Mediterranean and the mountains, it’s easy to see why the wine from the region will only gain more recognition.
Saint-Chinian wine must be made from grapes grown in the designated land, and the vilification and elevage must take place in the same geographical area. The appellation comprises the communes in the Hérault Department: Assignan, Babeau-Bouldoux, Berlou, Causses-et-Veyran, Cazedarnes, Cébazan, Cessenon, Creissan, Cruzy, Ferrières-Poussarou, Murviel-lès-Béziers, Pierrerue, Prades-sur-Vernazobre, Puisserguier, Quarante, Roquebrun, Saint-Chinian, Saint-Nazaire-de-Ladarez, Vieussan and Villespassans.
The communes Berlou and Roquebrun have a unique distinction and can label their wines with their town’s name. The wine must also follow stricter production rules.
The vines are planted with a minimum density of 4000 vines per hectare across the area, causing the vines to dig deep for water and nutrients. The grapes must reach high maturity levels, with amounts of sugar corresponding to a minimum of 12% alcohol by volume.
Although many red wines in the appellation age and can evolve nicely for several years, some red wines are made in the nouveau style and are sold in the same year of the harvest. These are young, festive wines with fruit purity, and along with the region’s white and rosé wines, these make the youthful side of Saint-Chinian. The appellation has wine styles for every occasion and food pairing.
Grape Varieties and Blends
For red and rosé wine labelled as Saint-Chinian, producers must use at least two grapes, with at least one of the considered main varietals: Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Other varietals are complementary: Carignan and Cinsault. Still, any wine must be made chiefly of main varietals.
Something similar happens for white wine. Most of the blend must be made of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino, and the complementary grapes Carignan Blanc, Clairette and Viognier can be used sparingly.
The subregions Berlou and Roquebrun are stricter in their allowed grape varieties and will only allow Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.
Southern France’s famous grapes come together in Saint-Chinian to show a more mature side of the Languedoc, one only possible in altitudes of up to 200 metres over sea level. Red, white and rose, Saint-Chinian wine is a great ambassador for the warm-weather style.
Buy Saint-Chinian Wines from Hourlier Wines
There are many passionate wine producers in Saint-Chinian, and Hourlier Wines has partnered with an exciting project leading the way in innovation while respecting the ancient region’s traditions. Domaine des Païssels was created in 2011 to champion old vineyards with vines trained in goblet from selected sites.
Located in Babeau, 5km from Saint-Chinian on schist slopes, this family property has dedicated generations to only a few very special hectares of vines. Single-vineyards show what the region is capable of — world-class wine and the finest expression of the wines from southern France. Here are a few wines from Domaine des Païssels to try.
Banel means small horns, and it’s an homage to the small herds of goats that graze between the vineyards. Made with 50% Grenache Noir and 50% Carignan from old vines grown in schist soils at 150m and 250 m of altitude, this concentrated wine shows tart red fruit and warm spices over a rustic palate with balanced tannins.
Fruit-forward and fresh, Le Banel can be enjoyed young but can age for over five years, gaining complexity and tertiary notes of earth and leather. Enjoy with casseroles, stews and hearty comfort food evocative of the pastoral countryside.
Old vines of 30 and up to 80 years old of Carignan 35%, Syrah 35%, Grenache 15% and Mourvèdre 15% come together for one of the most prestigious wines in the estate’s repertoire, the Les Paissels. This is a bold, full-bodied red wine ideal for grilling parties, where smoked meat and fatty cuts play a leading role. With extraordinary age-worthiness, one can age Les Paissels for over a decade. An outstanding wine indeed.
Domaine Des Paissels Les Jalouses is an extraordinary 100% Carignan from a 100-year-old single vineyard. One of the most exciting and compelling wines in Southern France, this mono-varietal centenarian is fresh and concentrated, contemplative but easy to enjoy. With cranberry aromas, cooking herbs and undergrowth, this wines is ideal to pair with red meat, game and aged cheese.
Where does Saint-Chinian wine originate?
Saint-Chinian lies in the Languedoc region, in Southern France, and it’s located in the high foothills of the Massif Central. The elevation gives the wine a unique freshness.
What does Saint-Chinian wine taste like?
Red Saint-Chinian can be concentrated but with a characteristic freshness to balance the ripe fruit flavours. Rosé Saint-Chinian is rare but, when available, is balanced and easy to drink. White wine in the region is medium-bodied and elevated in alcohol.
In a nutshell, Saint-Chinian wines are generous and fruit-forward with bold, robust personalities.
Which food groups pair well with Saint-Chinian wine?
Most Saint-Chinian wine is red wine, and it’s ideal for pairing with hearty stews, casseroles and broths, sausages, smoked meat, dry-cured sausages and mature cheese. White and rosé Saint-Chinian pairs well with seafood specialities like bouillabaisse.