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The wines of Domaine Saint Hilaire, Languedoc, France

A medium-sized domaine near Montagnac in the Languedoc, Domaine Saint Hilaire is owned by Jonathan James QC and his wife Anne (who had managed Monty Python and more recently Michael Palin). Sam Harrop MW has been consulting here since 2004. When he arrived there was a lot of Chardonnay made here, picked at 14 º alcohol then fermented in tank before going to barrel with full malo. The result left a lot to be desired. Sam decided to harvest at 13.2 º, press gently, keep the pressings separate, and ferment in barrel with no malo. ‘I’m trying to make balanced wines with flavour and personality, not adding too much’, says Sam.

Presumably with reference to Jonathan’s legal career, the two ranges of wines are ‘Advocate’ and ‘Silk’. They’re really impressive, offering plenty of well defined fruit as well as a degree of balance and elegance that is often missing in Languedoc wines.

Domaine St Hilaire Advocate Chardonnay 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Deep yellow/gold colour. Nice fresh nutty, bready nose is quite spicy. The palate is rich and intense with lovely nutty fruit. Sophisticated, broad and quite oaky. Quite a big wine. 88/100 (this is £7.99 from Indigo Wines)

Domaine St Hilaire Advocate Viognier 2005 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Deep gold colour. Wonderful fresh, deep aromatic nose with broad peachy fruit and some lovely spicy complexity. (Sam says that the skins are sensitive, like Syrah, and as soon as they start to move in your hand then you need to harvest it all. This has no battonage but is kept on the lees for a long time.) The palate has lovely texture: smooth, rich and a bit spicy, with melon and pear fruit. 90/100 (£7.99)

Domaine St Hilaire Advocate Chardonnay 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Pale yellow. Bright nose is quite tight with some stonefruit character. The palate is beautifully fresh with nice texture and some minerality. There’s also a lovely lemony edge. A really nice balanced wine. ‘By picking earlier we are trying to get the grapefruit rather than the pineapple flavours’, says Sam. 90/100

Domaine St Hilaire Advocate Vermentino 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Fresh, full, lemony, waxy nose with some lemon notes. The palate is broad with nice freshness and a lemony crispness. Bold and full with some minerality – this is a really good wine with personality. 89/00

Domaine St Hilaire Advocate Cabernet Merlot 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Beautiful nose: deep, ripe blackcurrant fruit with lovely purity and an attractive dark spicy minerality. The palate is bright with lovely pure focused fruit. Really nice freshness here: a very Bordeaux-like style with a bit of Margaret River character. Real class. 89/100

Domaine St Hilaire Silk Cabernet Merlot 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Single vineyard, hand-harvested, cool ferment, plunging every four days in 1 ton fermenters, pressed to barrel a bit sweet. The bright focused nose is tarry with a lovely purity of sweet dark fruits. Sophisticated and broad. The palate has lovely concentration with pure blackcurrant fruit plus spice, and some well integrated oak. Delicious stuff with real quality. 92/100 (around £10)

Domaine St Hilaire Silk Syrah 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Fermented at 25 ºC, this is a blockbuster Syrah made for an American audience with 50% new oak. Toasty, roasted edge to the dark fruits nose. Very ripe and sweet. The palate is smooth and supple with sweet ripe dark fruits. Dense, rich and oaky but with some freshness still. 89/100

Wines tasted 07/07  
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