Notes from the Cellar: A little taste of paradise in St. Chinian

by Jeff Cox, PCC Wine Guy

This article was originally published in May 2011

Late morning in the Languedoc’s rugged hills just outside St. Chinian, the growing warmth of a late summer day chases traces of the previous night’s chill.

Nadia and the vendangeurs race the sun to pick the remainder of the vineyard before the temperature climbs and the acids in the grapes fall, stealing the vivid freshness that is a hallmark of La Madura wines.

Freshness — a cool, graceful exuberance — is the rhythm that drives Nadia and Cyril Bourgne’s wines. Verve leaps from the glass in reds and whites alike.

The sauvignon blanc offers a mélange of sweet citrus fruit, wild herbs and exotic spice, while the St. Chinian rouge, a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah, bursts with notes of perfectly ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, accented with garrigues and sun-baked earth. In both wines there’s a sense of brightness, of elegance with a natural charm.

It’s astonishing that Nadia and Cyril have been in St. Chinian just since 1998. They seem part of its fabric of earth, light and soul, part of an inspired alliance: dirt, sun, human energy and love working in concert to create wines that sing with the character of the place.

Cyril was born with wine in his blood, growing up in a family of Languedoc winemakers, following a degree in biochemistry with winemaking studies, then honing his skills and senses working at several of the Bordeaux region’s most respected châteaux.

For Nadia, also a Languedoc native, a taste of the vineyard was more than enough to leave a career in the tourism industry to a new calling among the vines and in the cellar. She’s involved in every aspect of the winery, from administrative and commercial to working in the cellar and the vineyard.

After 10 years in Bordeaux, the dream of running their own winery led them to St. Chinian, where they found a mosaic of vineyards offering the ideal exposures and diversity of terroirs to express the winery’s distinctive style.

La Madura’s philosophy is founded on a profound respect for tradition, terroir and the healthy biodiversity of the soils — readily evident in the character, purity and depth of their wines.

The modest, utilitarian cellar underscores the notion of good hard work, humility and good sense. Gleaming stainless steel fermenters stand side-by-side with concrete tanks, form follows function, technology meets tradition and the focus is on wines that are as honest and delicious as they can be.

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