Sun, mountains, hills, sea – the wines of Roussillon and Southern Languedoc

 

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Some areas are blessed with near perfect conditions for growing the vine and producing its most valuable product, wine.  Roussillon is certainly one of these.  Administratively now coterminous with the Pyrénées-Orientales département, the region is bounded by the Mediterranean sea to the east, by the Spanish border to the south, by the Corbières to the north and by Ariège to the west.  It enjoys a sunny and dry climate, perfect for growing grapes.   The key facts are:

  • a mainly Mediterranean climate
  • a low 500-600mm of rainfall a year (England has around 840mm), some of which is lost in thunderstorms; most rain falls in autumn and spring, leaving a dry summer period
  • winds which dry the countryside, producing very healthy conditions for vines, ideal for organic viticulture
  • a spectacular 2530 hours of sun a year (England has less than 1500) and an average temperature of 15°
  • apart from Alsace, the most complex geology in France, giving a range of soils, mostly limestone, clay and schist, but also quartz, granite and gneiss, creating lots of choice for a number of grape varieties

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In order to provide a flavour of this area, these pages are organised thematically.  Some key wineries will appear under each theme, but some of those wineries’ wines (for example, sweet wines) will also appear on other pages.

 

2012 update: star Roussillon estates

CabardesVisits to top quality estates in June 2012 with members of Andover Wine Friends: Coume del Mas over the Mediterranean, Domaine Treloar inland, Mas Amiel outside Maury, Domaine Gardiès in the Agly Valley and, in SW Languedoc, the splendid Domaine Cabrol. Read more

 

 

Mysterious Bugarach

IMG_9020Bugarach is not really famous for wine, except perhaps for the amount of Robert’s vin rouge which is consumed in the village’s bar. But the village provides a dramatic, indeed mysterious base from which to explore the surrounding area.  Apart from the wine scene there is the landscape, the wildlife, and the dual mysteries of the village gossip and, less credibly, the rumours of the end of the world in 2012, all focused on the mountain which soars above the village.   Read more

 

Southern sparklers

IMG_8715Limoux claims to predate Champagne in its discovery of how to create sparkling wine in bottles.  Be that as it may, this part of Southern Languedoc continues to make excellent sparkling wines in a range of local and international styles, at a very good price.  The featured winery is Domaine du Fourn (Robert), though with a welcome to France’s most southerly sparker at Domaine Grier in Roussillon.  Read more

 

Ancient and modern

IMG_8660Wine has a long and, at times, turbulent history in this part of France. As a result there is both a big tradition of winemaking and a complete revitalisation in the last couple of decades.  The traditional sweet wines, vin doux naturels, will be featured below, but here we follow the history from bulk production to the top tables of the world.  Featured wineries include Maison Cazes and South African enterprise at Domaine GaydaRead more

 

Mainly red

IMG_8982While virtually every winery in this corner of Southern France will have a white wine and a rosé, it is the reds which shine here.  Choose the rosé if you are going to the beach, the whites perhaps for fish dishes, but then savour the reds, whether made with the traditional blends or now the omnipresent Syrah, imported from the Rhône.  Featured wineries include two cooperatives, the Les Vignerons de Lesquerde and Terroirs du Vertige, an ex-cooperative now called Préceptorie de Centernach and Domaine Grier.  But let’s be honest, every winery has red wine which could feature in this section.  Read more

 

In praise of Carignan

IMG_8808Strange things happen when you visit a wine area.  You discover new varieties or, in this case, the potential for quality of an old variety.  I am thinking of founding a club to celebrate old Carignan.  However, just calling it old vine Carignan won’t do, when the vines were planted in 1903.  The featured winery is Domaines Roc des Anges with an honourable mention for the Côtes d’Agly cooperative. Read more

 

Organic and biodynamic

nettle teaWith its near perfect climate, this area is well placed to produce organic and biodynamic wines in decent quantities.  Indeed it was remarkable how many of the wineries we visited were either organic or in conversion.  The featured wineries here are Cazes, showing that you can be both a large concern and organic and even bio and, in Languedoc, Ch. Prieuré Borde-Rouge.  Read more

 

Vin doux naturel – natural sweeties

IMG_8683Patented back in 1299, Arnau de Vilanova apparently invented a style of wine of which Roussillon is the undisputed world leader – vin doux naturel. These wines from Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls have been stopped during fermentation by the addition of spirit. The wines retain fruit character and some sweetness, have great ageing potential and come in various styles.  Featured wineries included Cazes and Préceptorie de Centernach, along with the cooperatives – for example, Lesquerde – who keep alive this this local treasure.  Read more

 

Credits: much of the factual data on these pages is drawn from Vignobles et vins du Roussillon, the booklet produced by the CIVR, Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussilllon, with the production data from the 2009 vintage.  Rosemary Georges’ The wines of the South of France continues to be useful (if published in 2001), as is Hachette’s Routes du vin en Languedoc-Roussillon.

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