The huge Languedoc region in the south of France is a catchall of oceans of cheap industrial vin de table, but also some of the most interesting wine values around. The juicy, mid-weight 2011 Domaine Rimbert Les Travers de Marceau red, with its tangy flavors of savory mint, peppery spice, bright red berries and crushed stones, is definitely in the latter group.
Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week
2011 Domaine Rimbert Les Travers de Marceau Saint-Chinian
Region: Saint-Chinian, Languedoc, France
Grape: Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre
Serve: Slightly chilled, with grilled duck breast, rabbit, sausages, cheese
Provence native Jean-Marie Rimbert saved for five years to have enough cash to invest in old Carignan vines growing in soils rich with schist in Berlou, a tiny community in the northern part of the appellation of Saint-Chinian, which surrounds the town of the same name. Rimbert’s 40 parcels of vines are at the highest elevation of the appellation, where wind sweeps down from the mountains.
The Languedoc is a curved swath of the Mediterranean coastline, where vines have flourished since Roman times. Saint-Chinian is one of its smaller sub-appellations, sandwiched between Faugères to the west and Minervois to the east.
Rimbert makes several reds, as well as a white and a couple of rosés — the one called Petit Cochon sports a label with a charming-looking pink pig.
Rediscovering Carignan in Languedoc
Like many Languedoc reds, Les Travers de Marceau is a typical blend of grapes found in the south of France: usually Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, though the mix changes slightly from year to year. It always contains a hefty percentage of Carignan. Most of the vines are 60 years old.
Across the world, this grape once dismissed as inferior is making a comeback. High yielding, it was widely planted across the entire Languedoc region during the last century and produced lots of boring, cheap, rustic reds.
Just as Chilean vintners have rediscovered the virtues of old vine Carignan in that country’s Maule region, a new generation of French vintners like Rimbert have been snapping up the Languedoc’s gnarled ancient vines that produce more complex and concentrated wines.
Domaine Rimbert’s Les Travers de Marceau is yet another good buy brought in by Jenny & Francois Selections, which specializes in natural wines. Though Rimbert harvests by hand, ferments with indigenous yeasts and ages his wines in large wooden vats that impart no taste of oak, he makes no claims that grapes are grown organically.
It’s not often that a wine costing under $15 expresses a sense of place. This one delivers.
Top photo composite:
2011 Domaine Rimbert Les Travers de Marceau label, and a winery cat taking a break from the busy 2011 harvest. Credit: Courtesy of Domaine Rimbert