4. GETTING TO GRIPS WITH TERROIR - Winemaker Diaries, by Neasa Corish-Miquel
As wine growers in the Languedoc, it can be frustrating to encounter the cynicism that accompanies conversations about terroir-expressive wines from here. Our region still struggles to cast off the shackles of its out-dated reputation as a producer of cheap and rough wine. Although these wines may remain statistically significant, “the region’s best growers have long since left that behind” (Andrew Jefford The New France 2002).
Although the Languedoc is the largest producer of wine in France, we are also a very large region, with many different terroirs and climats. The sunny and dry climate, accompanied by strong winds, means that we have the largest area of organically farmed viticultural land in France, with 36% of total vine area organically farmed! The terroir delineations can be roughly broken down into 3 particular types of mountain, sea and plains – the Laurent Miquel estates are in the hilly, mountainous regions of St Chinian, Faugères and Corbières. Laurent's ambition is to express the intricacies of the various crus through our wines and it's his questioning and intrepid spirit that has led us to experiment with grape varieties, particularly Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Albariño, as well as specific vineyard sites.
The appellation of St Chinian is the original home of Laurent Miquel and Château Cazal Viel lies at its heart, in Cessenon-sur-Orb. The major soil types of St Chinian are limestone/chalk (in the South and West) and schist/slate (in the North and East) and our vineyards are mostly composed of a mix of calcareous limestone and clay, towards the south of the region. The vineyards here give softer, rounded wines, with that inimitable aroma profile of garrigue, instantly transporting you to the south. Laurent’s father, Henri, was at the very core of the movement in the 1970s to promote quality and terroir in the Languedoc and he worked with other quality-minded producers to bring INAO accreditation to this area, by focusing on soil studies, vineyard management, reducing yields and winemaking techniques to achieve official classification. He was rewarded in 1982, when St Chinian was officially awarded AOC status.
At Laurent Miquel ,we vinify our best plots separately, allowing us to complete an in-depth study every year of the vagaries of the vintage and the minute differences that the unique terroir has on the grapes grown in each site. This means you get a very precise understanding of the different terroirs of our Languedoc estates and it’s part of our commitment to developing an understanding of the wines produced in this beautiful region that we are privileged to call home.
View some of our wines from St Chinian
Some of our vineyards in St Chinian, with the Massif Central in the background