AOC Minervois sits on the western side of the Languedoc Roussillon. The top vineyards in the region all have elevation – some, like in the foothills of the Montagne Noire (where Hegarty Chamans is situated), have slightly cooler conditions than on the baking flat plains below.
Since taking on the vineyards in 2002, John and Philippa have wanted to curate a biodynamic safe-haven free from any chemical farming to support the thriving biodiversity. The fact that the vineyards are completely surrounded by forests and are on the slopes above the flat plains of more commercial high-yielding vineyards means they are protected from any chemical spray drift.
Philippa and John experimented with yields and found cropping down to 25 hectolitres per hectare brought the quality they were looking for from the vineyard. As a comparison, Bordeaux typically crops at 40 hectolitres per hectare. The vineyards were certified organic in 2005 and became Demeter approved in 2010.
The four winds (Cers, Marin, Tramontane and L’autan) blow around the amphitheatre that the Chamans vineyard sits in and are a strong factor in shaping the wines' profile. Winds help dry moisture off the grapes helping to prevent disease and the surrounding woods create a natural windbreak for the vines.
Their property is situated within a nature reserve which has been protected since the early 2000s and means that the forests that help support the biodiversity of the vineyards cannot be felled and building development is severely restricted.
There are influences of the garrigue (scrubby bushes, fragrant wild thyme, juniper, lavender and fennel) which are rich in aromatic oils that leach into the limestone soils and these aromas can be found in these wines.
Animals are a fundamental element in the biodiversity at Hegarty Chamans. The estate raises a small flock of sheep which eliminates the weeds that grow between the vines and provides a natural fertiliser, supplemented by other organic manures. They also practice beekeeping, to preserve pollination. They also prepare their own composts which are energised using specific biodynamic preparations. After spreading on agricultural soils, they encourage microbiological life and the mineral and organic richness which are at the source of the expression of their terroir found in the wines.