2016 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian, “Le Mas au Schiste” Languedoc, France.
The Saint-Chinian AOC or appellation is the oldest winemaking region in the Languedoc, and vines were first planted here in the 17th Century, it is only about 20 miles or so inland from the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea in the foothills of the huge mountain range known as the Massif Central. Saint-Chinian, and especially Jean-Marie Rimbert’s Domaine Rimbert, is one of the undervalued treasures to be found in the Languedoc, capable of crafting complex, expressive and deeply flavored wines, from old vines in the schist-rich soils on beautiful hillsides. In many ways the wines from here remind me a bit of Gigondas, they are warmly ripe, but with a distinctive freshness, though the main grape here is Carignan, instead of Grenache, though usually similar in final blends with Syrah involved as well. Rimbert’s Le Mans au Schiste is a dark and meaty wine with an opulent fruit core and an array savory and spicy elements along with a flinty stony quality that is heightened from the terroir. The 2016 Schiste is evolving nicely and is richly packed with boysenberry, damson plum and blueberry leading the way along with grilled wild herbs, garrigue/lavender, dried violets, bacon and hint of creme de cassis, this certainly is a elevated vintage for the region and in particular Domaine Rimbert!
The iconic and maverick vigneron Jean-Marie Rimbert, of Domaine Rimbert, who is a self proclaimed defender of the Languedoc’s native Carignan grape, is a benchmark grower for the region. The self proclaimed “Carignaniste” and “Carignator” proudly showcases the grape in his cuvées, and they show just how pleasurable and vibrant this often misaligned grape can be. This is especially true, as this wine shows when planted on the right soils and farmed and vinified responsibly. Rimbert likes to say that “Carignan is my Pinot” and it’s an apt comparison. With his low yields (30hl/ha max, often less), intimate knowledge of his individual parcels, and delicate extractions (punchdowns), he brings out undeniable delicacy, nuance, elegance and age worthiness in the grape. Domaine Rimbert, as he importer, Floraison Selections puts it, the AOC and VDF bottlings alike brim with energy, lift and a crunchy, savory herbal expression that belies the soil’s minerality and the aromatic garrigue studded slopes. This 2016 Les Mas au Schiste is an authentic and soulful wine, with a little funk to start, which blows off quickly, and it gives a performance well beyond it’s price class, it is especially good even paired with robust/rustic country style cuisine and allowed the full opportunity to seduce over a lengthy relaxed meal, keep an eye out for it.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive