It didn’t seem so long ago that Alain purchased his vines around the tiny hamlet of St.-Guiraud near Montpeyroux, achieving nearly instant stardom with Domaine de Font Caude before business disputes forced him, phoenix-like, to re-establish the now eponymous Domaine Alain Chabanon. Most importers would gloss over this, but we truly believe that the experience has made Alain stronger as a person and more sensitive as a winegrower. The intense, ripe wines of the first few vintages (we remember the 1995s well!) have given way to a more transparent, elegant style, magicking finesse from terroirs hitherto known only for imparting rusticity.
He does this, like so many of our growers, by husbanding his vines thoughtfully (achieving biodynamic certification in 2011), vinifying meticulously and letting the wines find their own balance before release (he waits 3-4 years for the top bottlings). The soils are varied, but across all the wines, the chalk bedrock is apparent with fine tannins, precise acidity, and concentrated, clean fruit.
2010 Trélans – Chenin | Vermentino – Organic
A seemingly strange blend of an intensely aromatic Mediterranean grape (Vermentino) with a variety (Chenin Blanc) known to fare better in cooler climates. The Vermentino clearly lends an aromatic punch to the wine, but on the palate it’s all Chenin – brisk acidity, flavour intensity and a sweeping finish. It often sees extended ageing to allow the two components to come together, and the resultant whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
2012 Campredon – Syrah | Mourvèdre | Grenache – Biodynamic
Named for Alain’s maternal family, the Campredon is the easy-drinker in his portfolio, mainly drawn form younger vines and seeing a shorter elevage. That’s not to say it’s a fruit-bomb; there’s a streak of minerality lurking beneath the bright fruit, and it ages well for up to 6/7 years as the Mourvèdre component softens.
2009 Les Boissieres – Grenache | Syrah | Mourvèdre – Organic
This super-fresh Grenache cuvée is almost always our favourite, showing striking purity of fruit (like walking in a raspberry field!) and plenty of minerality. The palate is sleek and clean without a trace of ‘burnt’ Syrah, a problem which is all too common on the clay terroirs around Montpeyroux. We like this with a braised, flavourful cut of meat (lamb shoulder, for example).
2009 l’Esprit de Font Caude – Syrah | Mourvèdre – Organic
After more than 2 decades, this is still Alain’s flagship wine – an amalgam of Syrah fruit and Mourvèdre structure. There’s always a savoury, old-fashioned quality on the nose which comes from the terroir and extended ageing, but the palate is clean and airy, with delightful delicacy. We recommend decanting this wine several hours before serving to soften up the firm tannins of 2009, and pairing with a really juicy ribeye or lamb rack.
2010 Saut de Côte – Mourvèdre | Syrah – Organic
A relatively new addition, this is the culmination of Alain’s dedication to Mourvèdre in the Midi! It’s a suave addition, with fine tannins and an astonishingly pretty acid spine to frame the unmistakeable fruit. The primary difference is the use of concrete eggs for this wine, which promotes ‘circulation’ of the wine even as it ages. Think Vincent Cassel with a day-old stubble – delicious enough to have on its own.