St. Martin de la Garrigue has endured through several eras of history. The chateau is located in the Languedoc, near Pezenas, the hometown of Moliere. Surrounded by pine forests and garrigue, it is situated overlooking the Herault River. The building that stands today dates back to the Renaissance, yet its dazzling little chapel (which could turn the devil into a true believer) was constructed in the mid-ninth century. Records show that the property was gifted to the clergy throughout the Middle Ages by the kings of France. The story goes back even further though—the Romans were said to have built a villa and vineyards here after the conquest of Gaul. In recent years, primitive pottery shards and graves on the property were found, indicating that people have been living here even as far back as the Iron Age! So what is so special about this place? Its proximity to a water source and ideal terroir makes it the perfect spot for growing grapes. The microclimate here is different from St. Martin’s neighbors. It sits at a slightly higher altitude and is therefore cooler, allowing a one-to-two week delay of the harvest. This long, even ripening of the grapes is also attributed to the humidity and the cooling influences of the Mediterranean breezes, as well as bountiful rains in the fall and at the end of winter. Beautiful red and white limestone gravel covers the floor of the vineyards, lending aromatic depth and freshness to the grapes.
Jean-Claude Zabalia, one of the region’s most talented winemakers, has certainly left his mark on the property for over twenty years. In addition to overseeing the vineyards and the winery, Jean-Claude has made extensive renovations to the property, including managing the reconstruction of the cellars. He has brought the domaine to new heights, making wines that are sold in over twenty-eight different countries. Sixteen different varietals are planted at Saint Martin. While most of the vineyards are planted to red grapes, St Martin de la Garrigue is also known for their deliciously fresh white, Picpoul de Pinet. Andrew Jefford, author of The New France, raves, “Perhaps the best wine for me is an astonishing Picpoul de Pinet, picked very late from low-yielding vines: those who consider this an inarticulate if refreshing choice, the Muscadet of the Midi, should try this mint-and-verbena-scented, powerfully lemony wine.”
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