We were referred to Bernard Boudouresques, the proprietor of this rustic estate situated in the heart of the Minervois, by the Gibert family of Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie, our source of wines from the Corbieres district. Massiac and Faillenc are about 25 minutes distance, one from the other, along a series of pleasant, winding country roads and they share a rewarding simplicity in their approach to producing wines of character with a strong local identity.
The Chateau Massiac has a long history that dates back to the Roman Empire when this area was colonized by the Romans using the nearby Mediterranean port (30 kilometers) of Narbonne as an access point. In the 17th Century, two brothers from Massiac in the Auvergne region traversed the area in service to the King of Spain and eventually settled at this spot situated almost precisely halfway between the clock towers of the villages of Azille and Rieux Minervois. During the French Revolution, the “chateau” was burned to the ground.
Bernard Boudouresques and his family recently revived the domaine, planting vineyards and converting the estate to organic viticulture. Production from the estate is now (2012) certified organic. Massiac encompasses 21.5 hectares of vineyards, 8.5 of which produce the Minervois Rouge and 5 of which are the source for the two white wines classified as Vin de Pays d’Oc. The domaine lies at the extreme south of the Massif Centrale, effectively in the gently sloping foothills that lead to the Mediterranean coast which is not terribly distant. The subsoils are essentially limestone and clay with silex and marble infusions, all of which was formed during the Lutecian geologic era. This soil has particularly good drainage which accounts for the superior concentration that Massiac achieves in its wines. As well, the site is exposed both the winds that sweep north from the Mediterranean and the cooling northwest wind coming from the mountains known as Le Cers which consistently dries the vineyard and makes it less vulnerable to the maladies of the vine. At the moment (this is written in early 2012), Massiac bottles approximately 55,000 bottles of wine per annum.
Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d’Oc
The harvest of the white grapes is conducted in the early morning hours when the weather is still cool so that the beginning moments of fermentation can be closely controlled. The fermentation occurs in tank as does the elevage. The wine rests on the fine lies with occasional batonnage being done before the wine is bottled during the spring following the harvest. The result is a crisp, dry white with distinct Sauvignon varietal character. Harvest levels of the Sauvignon have proven to be extremely variable so that our purchases can vary dramatically year to year (3600 to 6000 bottles per vintage).
Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc
The Viognier cuvée is handled in a manner precisely similar to that of the Sauvignon Blanc: early morning harvest to take advantage of the cool morning hours, fermentation and elevage in tank, contact with the fine lies and some batonnage; bottling takes place during the spring season following harvest. The Viognier yields are in the neighborhood of 50 hectoliters per hectare. We purchase in the neighborhood of 7200 bottles annually.
Minvervois Rouge “Cuvée Sentinelle”
The “Sentinelle” cuvée is the more precocious of the two reds produced at Massiac. The tannins are more supple and the fruit a touch “sweeter”, more forward and less rustic than its companion. Fermentation and elevage are in tank. The wine is bottled within a year of the harvest. The blend is usually two-thirds Syrah and one-third Carignan. Somewhere between 9,000 and 10,500 bottles are reserved for us for the US market.
Minervois Rouge “Chateau Massiac”
This is the most important wine of the estate, a serious red vinified to reflect its capacity to age. The grapes are harvested at a point of slight “surmaturité” which captures the profound scents and flavors of the surrounding hillside “garrigue”. The cuvaison continues for at least a month; then, the wine is racked into tank for aging. The wine is bottled twenty to twenty-four months after harvest. As the wine ages in bottle, it develops enticing notes of juniper, rosemary and thyme as well as the savory flavors of wild berries and a hint of the “animal” … all in all, one of the more compelling values in our portfolio. Depending on harvest levels, we purchase between 9,000 and 12,000 bottles per vintage.