I was intrigued to return to Domaine Moulinier as I had not visited this estate for at least ten years. They were building a new cellar at the time and I was given a tour of the vineyards by Pascal Moulinier. This time I met his father, Guy, who explained that they have 22 hectares of vines altogether, on three different terroirs – grès or sandstone, from the primary era, so that they have found dinosaurs’ eggs in their vineyards; another block on schist, and the third on limestone and clay. Guy observed that limestone resists drought well, whereas the schist is more filtrant and better draining. They also have two hectares of Viognier, and their production of rosé has increased to account for a third of the total. And there are also four hectares of olive trees.
Their cellars are in the village of Pierrerue, just outside the town of St. Chinian, and the Caroux dominates the skyline. 1994 was their first vintage. Guy took his vines out of the coop when he inherited them from his father. He had previously worked in the civil service for fifteen years. He worked with the Miquel family at Château Cazal Viel to get some experience in vineyard and cellar and they lent his vats for his first vintage, in 1994. The first vintage in this cellar was 2001. It is all nicely streamlined. Guy explained that all the grapes are hand-picked and destalked. They have stainless steel tronconique vats and efficient cooling equipment, and a large barrel cellar, defying people who suggest that St. Chinian ne supporte pas le bois. Guy observed that they wanted to copy the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy, so that meant barrel ageing. They have yet to try larger demi-muids.
First we admired fossils, including a shark tooth and some dinosaur eggs on display in their tasting room and Guy began opening bottles.
2011 Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 7.00€
Ripe peachy palate, with some acidity. In comparison the nose is more discreet. Quite characterful.
2011 St. Chinian rosé – 5.80€
They make two rosés, a Syrah Grenache blend and an almost pure Syrah, which this was. Syrah is the main variety of the estate. This rosé was made almost exclusively from pressed grapes. Pale pink orange colour. Quite a delicate dry nose, and on the palate rounded, with some herbal notes. Good acidity. Nice balance. Dry ripe fruit on the finish.
And then on to reds, of which there are three:
2010 Cuvée Tradition – 6.30€
A short maceration – fifteen days, and no oak, nor filtration. Medium colour. Nice spice on the nose, with notes of the garrigues, with a broader palate. Ripe red fruit, and an orange note on the finish. Supple easy drinking. The blend is 70% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 5% Mourvèdre, from three different terroirs, with the percentages reflecting what is planted in the vineyards.
2010 Les Sigillaires
A longer maceration of four weeks, and élevage in old barrels for about 12 months. The oak is nicely integrated on the palate. Some notes of tapenade, and a fresh finish. Guy explained that the work in the vineyard is important for retaining freshness. They pick quite early to retain acidity and to keep the alcohol at a reasonable level. This is 13.5º. The palate was quite subtle with different nuances, and a hint of orange and a n elegant finish.
2009 Les Terrasses Grillées.
12 months élevage, including between 40 – 60% in new wood, depending on the characteristics of the vintage. They do not want the wood tannins to overwhelm the grape tannins. The maceration lasts five to seven weeks, depending again on the quality of the grapes. Quite deep colour. Quite tapenade on the nose – not obvious oak. Some orange fruit, as well as red fruit on the palate, with a tannic edge. A little sweet on the finish. This was my least favourite wine. But the overall style of Domaine Moulinier was one of easy drinkability.