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Caractères

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Appellation AOP Saint Chinian Schiste & calcaire

The Saint-Chinian appellation schist and limestone

Saint-Chinian is a land of antagonism and duality,
that of schist and limestone, and of stark contrasts.
And yet, its 300 winegrowers and 20 villages

are the crux of a single-minded ambition, and that is to express,
in the very finest detail, every single nuance in the mother rock.

The sub-soils of Saint-Chinian harbour an incredible geological mayhem, offering the only example of its kind in France, which is marked by golden spikes. Quite naturally, these soils have become a treasure trove for the winegrowers of Saint-Chinian. Classified under two horizons, one ‘schist’, the other ‘limestone’, the soils reveal a duality that commingles from the landscape through to the glass.

triangle violet
Photo tohubohu
triangle violet 2
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Image shiste tohubohu
Image shiste tohubohu 2

Mayhem

Or “unconformity”, as it is referred to by the geologists who travel from across the globe to witness this unique phenomenon.

To understand how it occurred, you have to remember that 600 million years of turmoil are recounted in our sub-soils. Long ago, there was an ocean, where sand and mud settled and became cemented to form limestone, clay and sandstone.
As a new mountain range formed, the Hercynian Mountains, the soils clashed, crystallised and produced schist. That was 300 million years ago.

During the Tertiary Period, marine invasions and the formation of the Pyrenees once again disrupted the sub-soils. The folded, chipped and washed down terrain flipped over and ended up upside down, creating an intertwined mass where the oldest layers cover the youngest. This phenomenon is aptly named an “unconformity”.

The ‘golden spike’ – or Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point as it is known scientifically – also deserves a mention. It demarcates two geological periods which can be seen in the rock. France only has five of them, and two are right here! See them in Coumiac and the pass at Saint Nazareth-de-Ladarez.

An obvious choice for winegrowing

 

A cursory glance at a map of the mother rock in Saint-Chinian puts a sparkle in the eyes of winegrowers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts alike. In a patchwork splashed with a hundred or so different shades, twenty colours describe their type: schist, hard and soft limestone mixed with sandstone, clay, sand, marl and marble, grown on hillside or terraced sites. The spectrum is so varied and contrasting that it is difficult to imagine a more exciting studio to work in.

Vignes tohubohu

An obvious choice for winegrowing

 

A cursory glance at a map of the mother rock in Saint-Chinian puts a sparkle in the eyes of winegrowers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts alike. In a patchwork splashed with a hundred or so different shades, twenty colours describe their type: schist, hard and soft limestone mixed with sandstone, clay, sand, marl and marble, grown on hillside or terraced sites. The spectrum is so varied and contrasting that it is difficult to imagine a more exciting studio to work in.

AOP vue du ciel
AOP vue du ciel 2
Carte saint Chinian
Agrandir la carte

The Saint-Chinian appellation has 300 winegrowers spread over 20 villages where the soils are divided into two main series – schist and limestone.

A diagonal line divides the schist in the north-west from the limestone in the south-east. In the heart of the schist area, two village-designated appellations – Saint-Chinian Berlou and Saint-Chinian Roquebrun – demonstrate the human factor in terroir. The journey by these two appellations mirrors the collective ambition of their winegrowers. In the glass, their differing characters and choices are perceptible – one is a staunch advocate of Carignan, the other of Syrah.

Boasting a long-standing reputation for the quality of its red wines, the Saint-Chinian appellation has also charmed wine enthusiasts and inquisitive imbibers with its terroir-driven rosés. Its white wines, only officially recognised in 2004, are burgeoning. Regardless of whether their aromas are a fusion of spices, fruits, flowers or minerality, they all show distinctive clean characters.

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The appellation viewed from the air

The Saint-Chinian appellation has 300 winegrowers spread over 20 villages where the soils are divided into two main series – schist and limestone.

A diagonal line divides the schist in the north-west from the limestone in the south-east. In the heart of the schist area, two village-designated appellations – Saint-Chinian Berlou and Saint-Chinian Roquebrun – demonstrate the human factor in terroir. The journey by these two appellations mirrors the collective ambition of their winegrowers. In the glass, their differing characters and choices are perceptible – one is a staunch advocate of Carignan, the other of Syrah.

Boasting a long-standing reputation for the quality of its red wines, the Saint-Chinian appellation has also charmed wine enthusiasts and inquisitive imbibers with its terroir-driven rosés. Its white wines, only officially recognised in 2004, are burgeoning. Regardless of whether their aromas are a fusion of spices, fruits, flowers or minerality, they all show distinctive clean characters.

Carte Saint Chinian
Guillemet Violet

Half schist, half limestone

« I have always like Saint-Chinian for the two aspects of its terroir… These two soils, stemming from different geological eras, produce very distinct wines: fresh and ethereal on clay-limestone, more elegant on the limestone part and more powerful on marl, they become profound and mellow on schist and even develop substantial ageability. That’s pretty amazing wouldn’t you say?
This dual personality, though, is not schizophrenic but a valuable asset. One aspect is often familiar to consumers and is a reflection of themselves. The other gives them a whole new continent of flavours to discover and explore. Their penchant for one style or the other speaks volumes about their own personality. Do you know many appellations that tell you more about yourself than about the wine itself ? »

Bernard Burtschy, wine critic, journalist and judge.

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Limestone

Lush landscapes interspersed with limestone ridges, mimicking the backbones of dinosaurs. Between them, narrow valleys provide a habitat for vines.
  • Geology : valleys of clay-limestone soils dotted with rocky outcrops, ‘reptile sandstone’.
  • Biodiversity : this is garrigue country where a wide array of shrubs and bushes cover the ground. It is bright, dry and mineral and houses an infinite range of plant and insect species, some of them barely visible.
  • Wines : extensive diversity and complexity, ranging from fresh garrigue essences to fresh, candied and dried fruit characters. The reds have a tannin frame that makes them age-worthy.

Schist

The landscape : gently rolling hills rising up towards Mount Caroux which peaks at 1,091 m above sea level. Here, vines grow over extensive swathes of land, in hillside or terraced vineyards. At elevations of 400m, the highest frontier for winegrowing, altitude and aspect play a major role.
  • Geology : large plots covered with a mantle of thinly layered schist dotted with alternate pockets of sandstone which crumble to form clayey soils.
  • Biodiversity : this is maquis country, a rare form of plant life only found in four French departments. The vegetation is green, dense and redolent with heady perfumes. This environment is fairly closed and marks the gateway to the intermediate mountain areas where the inclines become steeper. Chestnuts, beech and pine trees grow alongside mimosa and orange trees basking in a microclimate.
  • Wines : charming, voluptuous, showing aromatic finesse and concentration with no rustic characters.
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