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St-Chinian


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The St-Chinian appellation, which is probably the most well-known and high-quality appellation in the Languedoc aside from Corbières, is famous for its powerful red wines, most of which are GSM blends. Inclusive of vineyards in 19 villages, the appellation centers around the titular St-Chinian, a large town of around nine square miles.

With a total of about 7,500 acres under vine, the large appellation produces roughly 1.4 million cases of wine each year. Only the Coteaux du Languedoc and Corbières have higher production. In St-Chinian, production is almost entirely red. According to advocates of the wines, they combine tannin and verve in a way rarely rivaled in other Languedoc-Roussillon regions.

History

Wine markets tend to favor the established over the new. So it comes as no surprise that St-Chinian, one of the most popular appellations of the region, is also one of the most historical. Ancient documents show that this region had a booming wine industry as early as the Middle Ages. Even in Roman times, basic wines were being produced and sold in the jugs fashionable at that time.

St-Chinian winemaking developed rapidly. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the Canal du Midi was opened up, allowing ambitious producers of the region to export their wines to faraway lands. St-Chinian remained popular into the postmodern era, receiving AOC status in 1982.

Climate and Viticulture

St-Chinian's climate and viticulture might well be what makes it unique, and able to stay ahead of competition from all over the vast Languedoc region. Situated on hills predominantly composed of sandstone, with some limestone deposits, the vineyards face cool breezes coming off the sea, but generally enjoy warm weather.

The thickness and depth of the soil makes the wines Rhône-like in heaviness and richness. Deep and tannic, they can age as well as Corbières and to lovers of bold wines are the Languedoc's top example of this style.

Grape Varieties

Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are the typical grapes used in St-Chinian. Syrah is rather unpopular here compared to the other appellations, mainly used in small percentages. Grenache and Mourvèdre together make up 70% of the region's plantings. Varietal Carignan, which is catching on across the Languedoc, should probably be made legal here due to its exceptional power and soft texture. However, wine regulators have still not taken this step.

Major Producers

We list nine top producers of St-Chinian, all of which make reasonably affordable, commonly available wines that capture the spirit of the appellation.

Subregions

Unlike the Corbières appellation, which is subdivided into 11 distinct terroirs, St-Chinian has no major subregions.