We have been buying from this lovely property since the 1980s but it is only since 1993, when it was acquired by the Guida family that it has started to come truly into its own. A heavy investment of millions of francs has transformed the property. It has been a pleasure to watch the developments over the years and the beautiful château has now been completely restored to its former glory, as seen below.
The vineyard has grown from the 20 hectares of the 1980s to sixty five hectares of vines, and is situated just outside the village of Montagnac, where the sprawling vineyards overlook the oyster beds of the picturesque Bassin de Thau. Many is the picnic we have enjoyed feasting on the lovely view while enjoying a glass of their excellent Rosé!
As well as the heavy investment in the property, the other key to the startling success of the wines was the acquisition of Jean-Claude Zabalia as the new winemaker in 1993. With each passing year he strived both in the vineyard and the winery to produce better and better quality wines. He had a brand new cellar built, to store their oak-aged wines in. This is more like a temple with row upon row of new oak barrels, resting under a vaulted roof supported by classical pillars.
Robert Parker has listed the Bronzinelle as one of his top 30 wines, from literally thousands tasted over the year across the world! The March 2003 edition of Decanter magazine placed St Martin at the top of the Côteaux du Languedoc.
It was on our most recent visit in Spring 2014 that we discovered the property has been sold to a wealthy Russian businessman and Jean Claude has moved on to new pastures. The wines are now being made by the winemaker of Château de Saint Louis in Corbières. However, we have been extremely fortunate to buy some of the last wines made by Jean Claude, which he reckons are among the best he has ever produced!
Domaine Saint Martin de la Garrigue, Cuvée Réservée 2011
Vin de Pays des Côteaux de Bessilles
Predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and just a little Grenache, this wine is aged in the second year barrels from a prestigious Médoc Cru Classé. It has a marvellous deep colour, and an expensive cedar-wood nose gives way to a mouthful of intense cassis and damson flavours with a gorgeous silky texture. This is followed by soft tannin and a lingering aftertaste of wild herbs, reminiscent of the terroir of the garrigue. Absolutely delicious now, but will keep well for up to five years.
Domaine Saint Martin de la Garrigue, Bronzinelle 2011
AC Côteaux du Languedoc
This is made from 30% Syrah 35% Mourvèdre 20% Grenache and 15% Carignan vieux. Each part is vinified separately at a controlled cool temperature, to maximise the extraction of primary fruit flavours. The cépages are then carefully assembled, and one third is aged in oak barrels before the final assemblage. In the Spring, we tasted the 2011 Bronzinelle and it is deep, ripe and bursting with succulent black fruit and raspberries. All of this is underpinned with hints of vanilla, and it has a lovely mineral finish with a touch of liquorice. Amazing value for this quality!