We reach Domaine Les Eminades, located in Cebazan, a village 5 km east of Saint Chinian where we spent the night . Very cold night , something like minus 10 °C . Leaving in the morning to meet the owners, the car is barely beginning to warm when we stop at the chai, in the middle of the village .
Patricia and Luc Bettoni,who own the domaine, are in their 30's . Their estate, with vineyards on the Saint Chinian Appellation, consists of 10,5 hectares spread in plots in Cebazan and Villespassans, another village near here . Altitude of the vineyards is 150 m and 270 m .
Luc Bettoni worked as an oenologist for Chateau Montus, a Madiran winery, and also for a Cotes de Thongue estate, Domaine de la Croix Belle , before buying his own vineyards here with his wife Patricia . Luc is originally from Madiran and Sombrun . Patricia is a pharmacist and they met when she was still a student and followed courses about wine tasting ... Pharmacy and oenology share the same academic base and her interest for wine back then made them share the same path to the present day wine adventure . She kept her work as a pharmacist and finds the time to help in the vineyard, at least part-time . As we later understand as she shows us the vineyards, she is fully involved in the work and knows a lot about the interactions between the soil , working techniques on the vines , and the wine .
They started in january 2002, bought the chai in june 2002 and live near Faugères, about 40 km from here . Not easy, but they chose carefully the different vineyard plots they bought . That was more important to have the right vineyards than buy a convenient one-piece self-contained estate with chai, home and vineyards .
The soils of the plots they chose carefully are generally clay-limestone, with differences in the texture . Limestone from tertiary and secondary era . Small pebblestones and red sandstones . On Villespassans, silica and schistic limestone . The geology in the region is so awesome that the Paris geology schools come down here with students in summer to investigate the layers showing up all over the region .
Grape variety repartition : Majority in Carignan . A few old Grenache ( 35 and 60 year old ) . Some Syrah, and a little of Cinsault, including some Oeillade, a qualitative variety of Cinsault .
Before they bought the vineyards, its grapes were being vinified at the local cooperative winery . So they both had to re-work on the vineyard , with pruning, to adapt the vineyard to a new philosophy . Yields are now 30-35 hectoliter/hectare . Speaking of philosophy, theirs is serious work in the vineyard, on the vines and between the rows, so as to allow the wines to be made in the chai without too much intervention .
They dynamise the soil with organic life , do not use chemical weedkiller . Most of the vineyard is in Goblet, which makes it possible to be worked by a single person, as Luc is often alone . Short, Guyot pruning . No yeast addition, most of the time . SO2 like in organic viticulture, that is , very low .
The chai , where we taste the wines, is a 100 year old building, with thick walls in the middle of Cébazan .
__1 White . Sauvignon, "cuvée Silice" 2004 . Taken with a wine thief from a Seguin-moreau cask . Not finished its fermentation . 2-3 gr residual sugar . Had its malolactic fermentation in 2003 . We taste it but so little quantity that all the wine is sold in advance . One hectare, wich makes 10 casks ( 3500-4000 bottles ) . Labelled as "Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Fontcaude" Luc Bettoni wanted to make a burgundy style of work, with freshness . Harvest was september 1-3 when elsewhere around it was 15 days later . 25 hectoliter/hectare out of the press . Named "silice" (silica) because the sandstones break into silica, here . Hints also to the mineral side of this wine, in the mouth . First year it was made was 2002, and was right away noted as "Coup de coeur" in the Hachette wine guide . 9,15 Euro . 5,7 Euro for prof. buyers .
__2 Red . Cinsault 2004 . From a vat that has to do its malolactic fermentation . Franck texture . Quite silky even though we taste at a very cold temperature . Vinification here :
Only punching of the cap, no pumping over . Practically, it means they climb at the top of the vat and trample down .
__3 Red . Same wine, Cinsault 2004, from a cask ( in the cask since december ) . Even more silky . Not finished its malolactic fermentation yet .
__4 Red . Carignan 2004 "Les Vieilles Canailles" [ Picture with old vines, above ] . Malo not completed yet . On hard stones soil of Villespassans . This 100% Carignan will stay alone .
__5 red . Saint Chinian AOC Cebenna 2004 . 60% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 10% Cinsault, 10% Syrah . 12 gr residual sugar . Luc climbed over one of the only cement vats he still uses ( remnants of the former winery ) to take a sample . Still coated with sugar . Everything takes more time this year with the permeating cold .
__6 Red . Old vines Carignan 2004 . Will be blended into "Sortilège" and "Cebenna" cuvées . From "la Mouche" vineyard plot , with sandstones and small pebblestones , a very acidic terroir . Malo not finished yet . Was measured at 14,5° , but good acidity . 25 hectoliters on 1,5 hectare ( very low yield ) . Lacteous side, malo is not far . Nice one . We can hear the noise of the bung .
__7 Red . "Sortilège" 2004 , its base, at least . 50%-50% Grenache and Syrah . The final assemblage will be 40%-40%, plus 20% Carignan . Will stay in casks at least a year , up to maybe 18 months . No new casks : The wood must not hide the wine . Superb wine . No fining , no filtering . Good for the stability of the wine .
__8 red . Old Carignan .2004 . The missing part of the final "Sortilège" . A little CO2 at the nose , in the mouth too . It needs some more time to evolve . This Carignan will bring a good level of acidity to the cuvée , as it is 1,5 points over the rest . Will bring different aromas too . Also has more minerality .
Patricia Bettoni then shows us the vineyards ( pictures above ) . First, with Cébazan in the background, the old Grenache and beyond, the Cinsault-Oeillade . Then, in another spot , Syrah , planted in 2002, 7000/hectare . The neighbouring plot was uprooted by someone who planted truffle oaks . For these Syrah , they wait for deep rooting before harvesting . Around the vineyard, thick low walls , made from stones taken in the ground . We also stop at the Vieilles Canailles plot , with thick old vines .
Thank you Patricia and Luc for the time you devoted to us in this cold day to let us know better your Domaine .
I will include later tasting notes ( shared with other wine lovers ) about their Saint Chinian Sortilège 2002 , and Saint Chinian Cebenna 2002 , with temperatures better suited for a tasting .
Here are the tasting notes made the following summer by Christian Bourgeois after we gathered with a small group of wine lovers to taste a dozen Languedoc wines ( including these two following wines ) . Christian Bourgeois is an expert taster, here is what he wrote :
Domaine Les Eminades . Cuvée Cebenna 2002 . AOC Saint Chinian
__Very nice dark ruby robe with purple-blue reflections .
First nose is very fruity...blackberry, blueberry, blackcurrant, then some vegetal notes, blackcurrant leaves, humus .
Ripe attack, with finesse and freshness . Middle of the mouth is also superb, with a silky substance, thin and crunchy tannins, and a very refined structure .
Beautiful wine, straightforward, spontaneous, without any artifice . To keep with love in your cellar 4 to 5 years to appreciate at their best these old Carignan . Serve at 17° C with grilled red meats flavoured with aromatic herbs, also with stuffed lamb .
Blending is : 70% old Carignan vines ( 50 to 80 years), 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah .
Domaine Les Eminades, Cuvée Sortilège 2002 . AOC Saint Chinian .
Dark robe red wine, almost black, with some carmine-coloured ruby on the edge . Nearly opaque red reflections .
On the nose, seductive notes of maturing, discreet and refined . Agreeable mix of smooth spices, pepper, vanilla, brown tobacco, smoke, clove, crystallized black fruits, blackcurrant, blueberry, plus some notes of guarrigue, thymus, laurel and some hints of cocoa nut .
In the mouth, relatively supple attack, with a nice aromatic frame, very fruity, wich tones down the acidity and the tannic structure of this young wine . Quite tight final, but with a nice length and a mineral side wich is the mark of a true terroir .
To drink now with beautiful red meats, rabbit cooked with prunes, and in 5 to 8 years with gamey, roasted quails with bacon, also cheese with herbs .
Blending is 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 15% old Carignan vines ( 80 years ) .