North of Béziers in the Languedoc the countryside becomes wild and beautiful in the area of Saint Chinian. There are some 20 villages nestling in the valley around the town itself. I first became aware of Clos Bagatelle when I was cycling through the valley from Béziers some years ago, soaking in the amazing panoramic views as I climbed the hills and then discovering the beautiful hilltop windmill, as I descended towards Saint Chinian. The 60 hectare property of Clos Bagatelle is located on the outskirts of the town and has been producing wine here since 1632.
There are two distinct terroirs in the vineyard – schist and limestone. Cuvée Donnadieu is sourced from schistous soils, while Cuvée Bagatelle is sourced from limestone and clay soils. All the grapes are hand-picked and each variety is vinified separately before careful blending and ageing.
In 1963 the current family bought the property and set about renovating the vineyard. They planted new vines, installed new equipment and now the next generation, Christine Deleuze and her brother Luc, have continued the family tradition by producing wines of great character.
Luc manages the vineyard, where he focuses on minimal intervention, while Christine directs her boundless enthusiasm towards making the wines. Together they are slowly working towards “Bio” wines.
We have shipped Christine’s wines consistently over the past 10 years, and since then they have gone on to receive many awards and international acclaim. Christine is a great perfectionist and loves to vinify different plots separately to express the individual qualities of each one. When we visited her in the Spring we were hard pressed to choose from such a brilliant selection of 17 different cuves! However, we have selected two superb wines from different plots, which demonstrate the different terroirs of the two locations.
A Mixed Dozen contains three bottles of each of –
Aux Quatre Vents 2018
This is made from 50% Cabernet franc, 30% Mourvèdre and 20% old vine Grenache. The terroir of the vineyard is arid and situated in the hilly garrigue around Saint Chinian. The grapes are hand-picked and then vinified separately before being matured in large oak casks for just six months.
The wine is deep purple in colour with a blackberry nose with beguiling hints of wild herbs. In the mouth it is very soft, packed with brambley fruit and hints of redcurrants. There is very little tannin, and it is just perfect for every day drinking. Extremely quaffable!
Sentiers de Bagatelle Colline d’Assignan Rouge 2015
AOP Saint Chinian
This first red is from a terroir de grés. This is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 20% Carignan, at an altitude of 250 metres. The Carignan vines from this site are an amazing 50 years old! The wine is aged in large oak casks.
It is deep in colour, with an intense black fruit nose with hints of mint and minerals. On the palate it is concentrated, with flavours of soft black fruits, displaying great elegance and finishing with lovely soft tannins and hints of balsamic and liquorice.
Clos Bagatelle Au Fil de Soi 2015/17
AOP Saint Chinian
Christine’s top-of-the-range wine, and it is made from 50% Syrah & 30% Grenache with some Mourvèdre, and then oak-aged for 12 months.
A lush, opulent, ripe and succulent wine, bursting blackcurrant and cherry fruit, with great complexity, it is our choice for the Christmas meal!
Culte by Bagatelle 2013
AOP Saint Chinian
This very special cuve was specially created to celebrate 40 years of Clos Bagatelle.
It is extremely unusual for the appellation, in being made from 97% Syrah with just 3% Grenache. To achieve the required concentration and complexity, Christine has used very low yields and subtle oak ageing.
It has a fabulous nose of roses, raspberries and vanilla, with silky, ripe black cherry flavours. Very elegant and much like a Crozes-Hermitage in style!