The French wine region of St Chinian is located in the photogenic foothills of the Cevennes to the north of Beziers and is sandwiched, for those who know their vinous map, between Minervois and Faugères. The complex mosaic of terroir here may be simplified into higher -ground schist in the north (the enclave of Berlou is adjacent to Faugères) and limestone on the lower southern slopes. Mas Champart’s vineyards are mainly located in the latter camp.
Founded in 1976, Mas Champart is owned by the unassuming Parisian (is this a contradiction in terms?) couple Isabelle and Mathieu. They farm 25 hectares and are traditional in virtually all aspects of their winemaking, the notable exception being their passion for Cabernet Franc, a souvenir from several trips to the Loire Valley. Their Vin de Pays red wine contains up to 75% Cabernet Franc to be precise, the balance a kaleidoscope of local colour, headed by Syrah and Grenache.
The Cote d’Arbo cuvee is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, very old-vine Carignan and Mourvèdre, farmed at low yields and bottled with minimal intervention after ageing in tanks.
Their outstanding white wine is made up of 80% Terret and 20% Grenache Gris, ancient historical varieties in these parts and therefore, he says ironically, not permitted within the local AOC rules. Therefore it is a Vin de Pays, soon to be an IGP d’Hérault.