Minervois is an appellation for the distinctive red wines from the western Languedoc. The appellation takes its name from Minerve, a village 40km from the Mediterranean coast and surrounded by the southern French foothills. The wine history here is impressively long; archaeological evidence shows that viticulture here dates back to early-Roman times.
The vignoble of Minervois is visually and functionally hard. Staring at a field of rocks from which gnarled vines struggle to emerge and plump up a few angry grapes isn’t like gazing over the verdant plains and hillsides of other regions and one can see the work that will be necessary, and the heartbreak that sprouts from the earth in every weathered vine.
Minervois is known thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of a relatively small number of dedicated producers but it’s most definitely not a well-known name and the search for greater acknowledgement is an uphill struggle; it doesn’t help that a lot of the wines that carry the name never really rise above average… Thankfully, there are a few producers who put in the necessary work to make great wine in the Minervois and their vines reward the attention given to them with fabulous quality fruit. Vigneron ‘rebel’ Jean-Baptiste Sénat is one such producer. A star in the Languedoc.
His vines are a mix – carignan, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and a little bit of syrah – some of them quite old (the carignan, for example, comes from 1902). Sénat works organically, by hand, with natural yeasts, and without refrigeration, letting his casks (large and small) and subterranean vats find a natural balance. His pleasure in wine, he insists, comes from the taste of balanced, healthy wine.
More often than not, rebels must make do with posthumous gratification. Fortunately, Jean-Baptiste Sénat needs not to wait to benefit from his attitude towards work and life. Thirteen years ago, he brought his refreshing zeal back to his family’s vineyard, and now delivers wines that are all the rage in France and belong to that special group of our vignerons who’s wines are impossible to find outside it’s borders. They are flavour packed and powerful but still charming and refreshing; or in his own deadpan, “very drinkable”.