St-Chinian 2021 vintage rating: 4 / 5
St-Chinian 2020 vintage rating: 4.5 / 5
If there’s one thing to remember about St-Chinian (beyond the fact that its reds, and increasingly whites, are of exceptional quality), it would be the two terroir heavyweights of the appellation: schist vs limestone. More or less divided in two, schist dominates in the northwest and limestone in the southeast.
Broadly speaking, the wines from schist soils are more accessible early on, with distinct coffee bean and roasted characters and fine tannins, whereas those from limestone soils have a denser tannic structure yet good freshness.
White wines were added to the St-Chinian appellation in 2004, but they remain a relative rarity – only 5% of production is white. There’s great promise for St-Chinian whites though; Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Rolle, Carignan Blanc, Clairette and Viognier form the painter’s palette. Many of the whites have seen some oak, are well structured and tend towards opulence. Rolle lends its lovely floral fragrance, Grenache Blanc brings bitter stoniness. When all is in balance, a fresh and chalky, rocky structure is engraved with rich notes of nut oil and preserved lemons, and it’s really quite captivating. Paring back on overt oak might give these wines even more definition.
Out of the dichotomy of its two terroirs St-Chinian emerges as a high-quality appellation making characterful wines worthy of attention, and the most recent vintages support this. However, as consumers look towards lighter, fresher wines with lower alcohol, some of the over-extracted, overtly oaked examples that are still being produced may not prove popular.