Domaine Sainte Rose, Languedoc

xDomaine Sainte Rose is a Languedoc estate owned by Charles Simpson (right) and his wife Ruth, a British couple who left their careers to pursue a dream of establishing a vineyard and winery of their own. Having purchased the Domaine in 2002, the Simpson’s have set about creating a range of quality wines that are marketed in the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, and across Europe.

The Simpson’s say they have a very specific “quality-orientated strategy”, and have improved their vineyards with new pruning regimes, changes to vine trellising (posts and wires) and a renewed focus on weed control by retaining organic material between rows of vines rather than ploughing.

Fifteen acres of vine that the Simpson’s thought inferior have also been grubbed up and replanted. In the winery, significant investment in equipment (a new pneumatic press, sophisticated cooling and heating systems and the latest stainless steel tanks) plus strict hygiene standards have enabled them to achieve their goal of creating small quantities of affordable, hand-crafted wines.

I have to say that the overall quality of these wines is excellent. The Simpson’s intent is clear from the moment you pick up one of their super heavyweight bottles in their stylish packaging, and the wines live up to the promise in the bottle. These are decidedly modern wines, with full extraction and plenty of oak in some cuvées, yet the expression of the gape varieties and terroir of the south is not lost.

White wines

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) Le Sirocco Chardonnay 2004
From the Vin de Pays d’Oc, the mealliness and richness on nose and palate might fool many tasters into thinking this was a lightly-oaked wine, but in fact it is 100% un-oaked Chardonnay. There is nuttiness as well as succulent, sappy fruit on the nose, before a palate that is beautifully weighted between ripe, pineapple and tropical fruit, and a savoury, almond and cool pear quality. There is lovely fruit sweetness here and fine balance into a long, very creamy and composed finish. Price: £6.50.

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) La Canicule Chardonnay 2003
Another d’Oc wine, and again 100% Chardonnay, but this time partly barrel-aged. It has a deeper, buttercup colour, and the nose offers hints of hazelnut and almost minty fruit and sweet oak intensity. On the palate this has masses of sweet, ripe, limpid fruit with the blush of nectarine skins, pineapple and quite delicate Asian pear and crisp apple qualities. There is restraint here though, with an edge of precise acidity keeping the picture clean and juicy, and again excellent length and purity of fruit into the finish. There was just the merest hint of TCA on this sample bottle, but thankfully not enough to conceal its quality. Very good indeed. Price £7.95.

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) Barrel Selection Roussanne 2003 –
This wine comes from the Vin de Pays des Cotes de Thongue, and is a selection from low-yielding (15hl/ha) vines. The nose is wonderfully toffeed and lush, with honey and mint humbug aromas over a density of peach fruit. On the palate it is rich and mouth-filling, with fabulous concentration and sweetness of fruit, with very nutty undertones and sufficient crisp apple acidity to keep the opulence and richness in check. What a delightful wine, and very good indeed/excellent. Price: £10.25.

Red wines

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) La Garrigue 2003
This d’Oc wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. It has an inky black colour and a spicy nose of cherry, thyme and herbs and a background of cedary, nicely judged oak and black plum fruit. On the palate it is fleshy and fruity, with plenty of crunchy and juicy blackberry and black cherry, and a softening note of sweet, damp earth and briarwood. It is crisp and fresh style of wine, though the makers suggest it will cellar for four or five years. Very good indeed. Price: £8.25.

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) Le Soleil du Sud 2002
Another Vin de Pays d’Oc, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, aged 10 months in a combination of French and American oak. Very fine nose, where the immediate impression is of soft, sweet berry fruits, with masses of blackcurrant and bramble, and an undertow of vanilla and toast. On the palate the wine is spicy and mouth-filling, with a roughening edge of damson and plum-skin fruit, good ripeness, and quite a big, slightly raw, oaky finish. There is power and depth here, though I wonder if the tannins and oak are too dominant for this to age truly gracefully? Nevertheless, this is structured, concentrated, and very good indeed. Price: £10.75.

Domaine Sainte Rose (France) Le Pinacle Syrah 2002
100% Syrah from the d’Oc, this wine is a careful selection of Syrah vineyard parcels, hand-picked and vinified for one year in French and American oak. It is dramatically dark and has a lovely nose, where finely seasoned berry fruits and chocolate intermingle with little camphor and floral notes, plenty of exotic, sandalwood spice and warming vanillin. On the palate the concentration and structure of the juicy, lithe Syrah fruit pushes through the mid-palate, with a sweep of smoky oak, ripe, chocolaty tannins and cherry-skin acidity adding lots of complexity. The fruit in this wine seems much better matched to the oak, and Domaine Sainte Rose’s suggestion of five or six year’s cellaring seems reasonable. A great wine from a moderate year this one, and very good indeed/excellent. Price: £13.99.

Domaine Sainte Rose
Servian 34290, France
Tel: +33 (0)467 39 07 54