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Visit to Domaine Alain Chabanon

July 8, 2010

VISIT TO DOMAINE ALAIN CHABANON – Domaine Alain Chabanon, Montpeyroux, Languedoc, France (5/26/2010)


my friends and hosts in the Languedoc, Philip and Ida, tasting with me at Dom. Alain Chabanon

My lifelong friends Philip and Ida introduced me to the wines of Alain Chabanon on my first trip to the Languedoc in February ’06, when we not only tasted his wines with some bottle age on them out of Ida and Philip’s cellar at Rives Pres, their home in the Languedoc, but also at the Domaine. I had the opportunity to return to the Domaine on my recent third trip to the Languedoc this past May, to taste through Alain’s current vintages (followed by tasting of a couple samples of prior vintages over lunches at Rives Pres).

Alain’s wines continue to impress, and I am not alone in thinking that he is one of the most talented winemakers in the Languedoc. Paul Strang’s Languedoc Roussillon: The Wines & Winemakers, which was the first comprehensive account of modern winemaking in the Languedoc when it was published in 2002, but which is now woefully out of date due to the speed of developments in this burgeoning part of France, says of Alain that he “has the same kind of pizazz as his mentor Alain Brumont, and he knows it.” Strang also intuits that the “secret” of Alain’s “success must lie in his incisive intelligence, passion, and sheer application.”

Alain worked with Alain Brumont in Madiran and Comte Peraldi in Corsica for two years following his oenology education at Montpellier and then Bordeaux. He then came home to the Languedoc and bought 14 hectares in Montpeyroux in 1987, and subsequently added a further seven. His home, winemaking facility and tasting room are all outside the village of Lagarnas, near Montpeyroux.

Alain makes a rosé, a white blend of Chenin Blanc and Vermentino, a couple of Merlots, a couple of Rhone-blend wines, an idiosyncratic sweet wine from botrytised Chenin Blanc grapes, and the Domaine’s flagship, the L’Esprit, which is currently a blend of equal parts Syrah and Mourvedre. His wines are certified organic, undergo long macerations (usually four to five weeks), and he relies only on ambient yeast.

Rosé Trémier

The rosé is a different blend every year. I think the 2008 is even more successful than the ’07, which was heavily based on Mourvedre, so was a really big wine for a rosé.

  • 2008 Domaine Alain Chabanon Coteaux du Languedoc Rosé Trémier – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (5/26/2010)
    Light orange pink color; tart orange nose; tasty, tart orange, tart cantaloupe palate; short-medium finish 90+ pts. (45% Mourvedre, 32% Carignan, 23% Grenache; 6 mos. in stainless steel vats) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Alain Chabanon Coteaux du Languedoc Rosé Trémier – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (5/28/2010)
    Medium orange pink color; tart orange, tangerine, baked cherry nose; tart plum, tart berry, herbal, black fruit palate, big and complex for a rose; medium-plus finish (70% Mourvedre, 30% Carignan) (89 pts.)

Trélans

We were really blown away by the ’07 Trélans, which is simply the best Languedoc white I’ve tasted. It’s a blend of Vermentino and Chenin Blanc, and everything really seems to have come together with the ’07 vintage, which was structured, but ravishing from its floral nose to its complex palate. We also tasted the ’06 at Rives Pres, which was good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the ’07.

  • 2007 Domaine Alain Chabanon Trélans – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d’Oc (5/26/2010)
    Very light yellow color; lovely floral, apple, white flower nose; creamy textured, tart apple, peach, mineral palate with good balance, quite lovely; medium finish (57% Vermentino, 43% Chenin Blanc; 12 mos. in French oak barrels) (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine Alain Chabanon Trélans – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d’Oc (5/27/2010)
    Light yellow color with faint green tinge; aromatic, lime cream, mineral, acacia nose; oily textured, lime, mineral, green apple, supple palate with good acidity; medium finish (55% Vermentino, 45% Chenin Blanc) (91 pts.)

Merlots

Alain makes two cuvees of Merlot, both containing the punning name “Merle aux” Alouettes, which means “a blackbird with larks.” The Le Petit is fermented and aged in stainless steel, while the Le Merle sees two years in French oak. I much prefer the Le Merle, and have been collecting it for the past four years. I was delighted when Garagiste.com was distributing it two years ago. In a 2004 blindtasting written up by Jancis Robinson, the ’99 vintage Le Merle was matched up with the ’99 Petrus and another Merlot and scored slightly more points than either. In good years, this is a killer Merlot.

  • 2008 Domaine Alain Chabanon Le Petit Merle aux Alouettes – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d’Oc (5/26/2010)
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, dark berry, herbal nose; tight, tart berry, sage palate; medium finish (11 mos. in stainless steel vats; average vine age 23 years) (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine Alain Chabanon Le Merle aux Alouettes – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d’Oc (5/26/2010)
    Dark red violet color; caramel French oak, berry nose; tasty, tart berry, caramel palate, with well integrated oak and sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (needs 2 to 3 years; 24 mos. in French oak barrels; average vine age 21 years) (92 pts.)

Rhone Blends

Alain makes these two Rhone blends. The Campredon is Syrah dominated, while the Les Boissieres is almost all Grenache. The Les Boissieres spends a lot longer time in stainless steel vats. Both are good, and should be even better with additional bottle age.

  • 2008 Domaine Alain Chabanon Coteaux du Languedoc Campredon – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (5/26/2010)
    Medium dark cherry red color; berry, floral, pepper nose; complex, tart berry, roses palate; medium finish (48% Syrah, 22% Mourvedre, 16% Grenache, 14% Carignan; 11 mos. in stainless steel) (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Domaine Alain Chabanon Coteaux du Languedoc Les Boissieres – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (5/26/2010)
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; lovely lavender, cherry, blackberry nose; tasty, blackberry, cherry, mineral palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (90% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% old vine Carignan; 36 mos. in stainless steel vats) (91 pts.)

Flagship L’Esprit

This is Alain’s flagship wine, which is definitely ageworthy. It originally contained enough Grenache to ensure appellation status, but is now a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre. I’ve had aged samples which imitate elegant Right Bank Bordeaux. The latest release is another very good wine, which should be even better with some years in bottle.

Sweet

This is Alain’s sweet wine, made wholly from Chenin Blanc grapes, and which, in the current, very limited release, is a blend of 2001 and 2003 botrytised grapes. Alain employs only used barrels for this wine, so the wood influence is minimal. These have the glycerol and acid to age for many years.

Alain Chabanon finding a Le Villard for me on a prior visit

  • N.V. Domaine Alain Chabanon Le Villard MMI / MMIII – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Table (5/26/2010)
    Medium orange color with pale meniscus; dried sultana raisin, straw, apricot nose; very tasty, sultana raisin, apricot, dried apricot palate with good acidity; long finish (93 pts.)
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One Comment leave one →
  1. J.R. Young permalink
    July 9, 2010 4:35 pm

    Nice write up, I bought some 2004 Le Merle from Garagiste a while back but have not yet pulled a cork. I’m sure John threw out some fantastic prose to get me to buy it, and I did. I’m always excited to hear about wine makers making great wine in less known (relatively speaking) regions. Maybe it’s time I popped cork on one of these to see for myself.

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