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The wines of Henri Miquel/Château Cazal Viel, AOC St Chinian

SCEA Cazal Viel, F-34460 Cessenon-Sur-Orb, France
Tel: +33(0)4 67 89 63 15, Fax: (0)4 67 89 65 17

France's Languedoc is currently one of the bright spots on the world wine map, with producers like this offering affordable, tasty wines that offer something more than just a blast of fruit. Cazal Viel is that largest privately owned estate in St Chinian (an AC in the Languedoc about 20 km north of Beziers), with some 135 ha of vines. It’s been a family-owned estate since the French revolution, the present generation of Miquels has been making wine here since 1980. A range of varieties are grown, but they specialise in Syrah (60 ha, vine age between 20 and 30 years) and Viognier (20 ha). Average yield is 45 hl/ha, and around 75 000 cases of wine are made each year (60 000 red, 15 000 white). The four examples of the range tasted here are solid, commercial wines, but with enough character and typicity to make them interesting. In particular the Syrah/Mourvèdre offers very good value for money, and the Viognier is probably the best I've yet had from the Languedoc.

Château Cazal Viel St Chinian Vieilles Vignes 1999
Deep red purple colour, with a nose of spicy dark fruits with an attractive smoky edge. Chewy palate with a leathery, chewy character, dry tannins, good acidity and nice minerality. Tasty stuff, showing real typicity. Very good+ (no UK listing at present) 11/01

Château Cazal Viel Saint-Chinian Cuvée des Fees 1999
From calcareous clay soils, this is mostly Syrah with a dash of press Viognier, and doesn't see any oak. Deep red/purple coloured with a satisfying earthy, spicy, mineralic nose. The palate shows a good concentration of juicy, mineral edged fruit with smooth supple tannins and good acidity. Not a blockbuster, but a satisfying wine showing lots of southern character and really nice balance. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose; £6.49 Somerfield) 11/01

Cazal Viel Viognier Grande Réserve 2000, Vin de Pays d'Oc
(Clay soil, yield 35 hl/ha, matured in a mixture of steel tanks and new oak barrels.) An attractive wine from trendy grape Viognier: it's varietally true, with that authentic aromatic peach , apricot and slightly burnt rubber nose. Rich, soft-textured palate has a touch of spice on the finish and relatively low acidity. Tiny bit 'hot', but an interesting and tasty example of this grape. Very good+ (£6.99 First Quench) 11/01

Laurent Miquel Syrah/Mourvèdre 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc
Quite deep coloured, this wine has an enticing smoky/earthy nose with a touch of cinnamon. Palate has plenty of savoury, slightly meaty fruit with a deft touch of tannin. Satisfying stuff, this is quite impressive for the price. (£4.49 Sainsbury) Very good 11/01

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