Domaine Mas Champart “Causse de Bousquet” (Saint-Chinian 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $135 (~$22/bottle)
Back in 1976, Isabelle Champart, a Parisian with a degree in Geography, and her husband Mathieu, from a family of farmers in Champagne, began cultivating vines on a humble 20 acre farmstead. For close to twelve years they sold their grapes to the local cooperative but once they decided to bottle under their own label of Domaine Mas Champart they gained almost instant acclaim. Since then, they’ve acquired another 40 acres planted with vines, orchards, and arable crops. Mathieu tends to the vines, Isabelle makes the wines, and this small slice of the Languedoc is their life. Once, when asked by a visitor if they had children, Isabelle swept her hand across the outside of their winery and answered immediately, “Look around. This is my child.”
The place is Saint-Chinian: A gusty, drought-ridden expanse clambering up out of the Languedoc Plain, with Mount Caroux and Mount Espinouse furnishing a picturesque backdrop. It’s there on the southern slopes of clay and limestone that Isabelle and Mathieu are creating singular and impressive wines in this ancient region that has seen a tremendous surge in quality over the past couple of decades. From the beginning the Champarts have employed sustainable and organic techniques in their farming, reflecting their desire to protect and preserve the environment.
“Causse de Bousquet” is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, and 10% Carignan from a number of plots on different terroirs to provide the aromatic complexity and originality that the Champart’s are looking for in this, what you might call their flagship wine. It owes its name to the main terroir from which it comes: “Le Bousquet” is a broad limestone plateau at close to 1,000 feet in elevation where the hard rock extends through to the surface. The stony and warm, well-drained soils here produce aromatic, fleshy wines and are where the Grenache and most of the Syrah vines are planted. A small proportion of Syrah and the Mourvèdre come from more clay-based soils where vines ripen later and provide structure to the blend.
Matured by two years of aging in both vat and barrel, the 2015 “Causse de Bousquet” is a concentrated and sunny vintage expression. The aromatics of red cherry licorice and herb-dusted stone hover above the slightest hint of grilled meat. A mouth-filling sip bellows of ripeness yet the wine never turns flabby. Indeed the lengthy finish seems to release energy as it remains. For those of us on a budget that want to enhance a cellar with a wine capable of short to medium term development, this is clearly a great buy. For pairing ideas, we can attest to the sweet ripe fruit of this wine being a handsome partner to the mild heat of Ribeye Steak con Rajas of Southwest Detroit’s El Asador.
“Clos de la Simonette” (Saint-Chinian 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $194 (~$32/bottle)
Absurdly low-yield blend of 65% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache and 15% Carignan from multiple plots. The Mourvèdre is planted 750 feet above sea level on steep hillside terraces that are particularly well exposed. Many of the rows contain robust vines from Bandol. The Grenache comes from the wines’ namesake plot, the stony and well-drained “Clos de la Simonette” that is surrounded by dry-stone walls. The plot containing the Carignan has soils similar to “Simonette” but there the vines are 70 and 100 years old. The wine was aged in demi-muids after a long maceration and bottled unfiltered in September of 2017. Though this wine is easy to appreciate now for its rich and inky complexity, it ages extremely well and really shines after some decanting. It was just a couple of years ago that we finished our last bottle of the 2001 vintage and it was absolutely singing at the time. Only 4,000 bottles produced.