Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Wine, women and ... St Chinian

When we first came to St Chinian ten years ago, we bought a wonderful little guide from the Maisons des Vins to the vignerons of the St Chinian appellation. We couldn't possibly have visited every vineyard, so the first year we decided to limit ourselves to organic vinyards, and the second, to women winemakers. That was when we discovered Line Cauquil. Her father had owned the local garage and was also a "vigneron", delivering his wine to the local cave cooperative. When he retired, his son took over the garage, and Line - who worked in IT - decided to take over the vineyards, creating her own domaine, the Domaine Deslines (the feminine theme is reflected in the label for the "Grand Cru", which unfortunately proved too risqué for an order from the United States). Like most St Chinian wine, Line produces red, and we often end up driving back to Ferney with lots of red, but little white. So this holiday we decided also to test white wines, and started with a wine produced by Hildegard Horat of La Grange de Quatre Sous, at Assignan, a couple of kilometres from St Chinian. Hildegard is originally from Switzerland and arrived in the Languedoc in 1983. Her wines are "Vins de Pays" - but don't let that fool you into confusing them with the cheap generic wines in supermarkets. Like other vignerons in the area, Hildegard chose the VdP option to give her greater flexibility in the grape varieties she could use than if she had opted for the St Chinian or Côteaux de Languedoc appellation, and she uses organic methods (though doesn't promote her wine as such). When Hildegard started producing wines, a female vigneron was a rarity, now she belongs to an association of 18 women vignerons in the region called vinifilles - oh, and her domaine has just an echo of the Brecht/Weill Threepenny Opera, which in French is the Opéra de quat'sous - now, there's a reason to raise a glass!