Archives for posts with tag: Roussillon

On Monday 9th July Janine showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group wines from DOMAINE GAUBY.

This is a biodynamic Domaine of around 45 hectares of vines near Calce in Roussillon. They are mostly between 150 and 200 meters of altitude in wild, arid, steep and hilly terrain, with some influence from the sea – less than 20km to the East. The geology is composed of limestone, marl and shale – with limestone more in the North and primary schists further south, they are sometimes intimately mixed, arranged in vertical strata, which allows a deep rooting of the vine. The wines are hand picked, low yielding and only use indigenous yeasts.

Janine showed us 3 whites and 3 reds.

Here are my notes:

This IGP Côtes Catalanes is made, with low yields, from Muscat 50% (15-50 yo); Macabeu 20% (30-50 yo); – Chardonnay 30% (20 yo) grown on limestone soil. It has 8 months in vat before bottling.
The nose is slightly spirit with floral and citric hints, quite clean and linear. The palate has a chalky feel underneath some lighter touches – acidity and stone fruit. Fresh and with developing interest

This has a much deeper nose with citrus and an oily perfumed nut element. Both higher acidity and more richness on the palate, more interesting than the 2015 and showing both subtlety and secondary characteristics. Good

This is made principally from Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc but there are eight varieties in total, grown at even higher altitude on poor more granite soils.
This shows oak and a slightly oxidised note reminiscent of old Burgundy. Palate is creamy with a spicy melon hint and some sherry-ish notes and goes over a little into white Rioja territory. Long and interesting but rather too many secondary-flavours for great versatility.

This is a Côtes du Roussillon Villages made from 10-20 yo: Syrah (50%); Mourvèdre (25%);  Grenache (15%) & Carignan (10%) grown on Limestone, clay-chalk and shale soils aged 10 months in barrels (20%) or vat (80%).
This has rather a Syrah nose with blackberry slightly hot fruit. Palate is quite simple with a tannic undertow and spicy woody elements too much to the fore IMO. Rather like a Syrah-heavy Southern Rhone from (say) Cairanne?

This has a more perfumed nose with oak showing through, but not as prominently as the younger wine. The palate is better integrated with some cinnamon hints. More supple than the 2015 but a little less acidity.

This is made from 125 yo Carignan (35%); 55 yo Grenache (25%); 25 yo Mourvèdre (10%) and 20 yo Syrah (30%) grown on sedimentary limestone and shale. Aged in barriques for 24 months.
Nose is mature with slightly sour plum with some sous-bois notes. Palate is well structured with a long acidic and slightly jammy plummy fruit, some start of leather and non-fruit hints. Rather nice but again seemed rather like a good Southern Rhone – Gigondas for example at almost Chateauneuf price.

An interesting tasting – these are well made wines with some poise, but the whites speak of the area more eloquently than the reds, and were – in general, much more interesting. The reds although enjoyable, especially the last, seem more generic Southern France: Rhone; Languedoc… rather than anything specifically Roussillon.
My favourite was the 2011 Calcinaires Blanc.

Thanks so much Janine

À Bientôt


On Thursday 15th June Richard led the ICC Group in tasting wines from Domaine La Tour Vieille, comprising Apellation Collioure Controlée wines and a Bunyuls. My reports from this tasting were all excellent, both in regard to the quality of wine and about Richard’s presentation. I am very grateful to him for conducting the tasting, and for the notes below:

These are high quality wines and were all ready for drinking now although they will keep for many years. An underlying theme of all the wines was a reflection from their growth area; subtle undertones  of minerality, salinity and garrigue. The balance of fruit and acidity made the wines smooth, elegant and complex . This gave a voluminous quality in the mouth.

Les Canadells 2014    14.5%   (Yapp Bros £17.30   Grower €14.42)
70% grey and white Grenache, 10% Macabeu, 10% Verminto, 10% Rousanne.
Yeast, almonds, mineral, flinty and tropical. Good to drink on its own but will go well with food.

Rosé Des  Roches 2015     14%  (Grower €9.27)
50% black Grenache 50% Syrah
Salty, strawberry, candy floss, tropical, melon strawberry jam, redcurrant. Good on its own or with food.

La Pinede 2014     14.5%    (Grower €12.36   Yapp Bros £16.20)
75% black Grenache  and 25% Mourvedre and Carignan
Nose of leather, rubber, caramel. Taste of brambles (blackberry) cinnamon liquorice, aniseed, black cherry, spicy and tinned tomatoes. Again, good on its own or with typical food of the area.

Puig Oriol 2015      14%    (Grower €14.42   Yapp Bros £17.30)
70% Syrah and 30% black Grenache
Black cherry, spice box, seaweed, chalk, mineral, pencil, cloves, stewed plums, frankincense. Very smooth, rich and velvety without being overbearing.

Puig Ambeille 2014   14.5%    (Grower €14.42)
80% Mourvedre  20% black Grenache
Tobacco nose. Blackberry fruits, herby, spice, rounded and smooth. Forest floor, black cherry and ripe berries. Well balanced.

Banyuls Reserva Vin  Doux Naturel     16.5%     (Yapp Bros. £20.90 Grower €16.48)
90% black Grenache and 10% Carignan.
Plum, prunes, coffee, fig, dried cherry, raisin, toffee, chocolate and sweet spice. Lighter than port but goes well with chocolate, chocolate dishes and with cheese. Lovely sweet taste with lots of flavours again without being too intense.

So – very many thanks to Richard for collecting and showing these wines, I really would have loved to attend. Other tasters have told me of the overall salinity (does that reflect the sea-side location), balance and poise in the wines. This confirms my impressions over time about wines of Roussillon – that the better end is cheaper, fresher and more complex than comparable Languedoc wines, despite (?) being further South. Perhaps the reason is more small artisan growers, or the easier affordability of the wines (meaning we can drink higher up the scale), or the sea… or the good offices of people like Richard who brought us these wines… At any event a great success – thanks again Richard…

À Bientôt…

This month, the ICC Tasting will be of wines from Collioure, in the very capable hands of Richard.

Collioure AC (AOP) is a small wine area in the very South-Eastern corner of Roussillon – and indeed France.  Centred upon the old fishing village of the same name, the area also produces  produces Vin Doux  within the identical geographical boundaries, which is always labelled Banyuls.  Collioure is the name reserved for normal strength, dry wines.

Collioure/Banyuls is a small area, producing about 4% of all wine in the Roussillon area. Similar amounts of each are made, depending on the harvest. Collioure is untypical in that 20% of the planting is white (the average over all Roussillon is 3%!) – so about a third of white Roussillon AOC (now AOP) is from Collioure. Which is interesting now since AOC white was only permitted in Collioure from 2003.

Collioure AOC red is always a blend which must contain at least a 60% of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre with no individual grape permitted to exceed 90% of the total blend. Cinsault and Carignan and allowed to up to a maximum of 30%. Today the AOC white blend must contain a minimum of 70% blend of Grenache blanc and Grenache gris with Macabeo, Malvoisie, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino (Rolle) permitted to round out the remaining portion of the blend – though each of those grape varieties can not individually exceed 15%.

Richard has chosen to show wines based on one of the top 5 producers – if not the best – Domaine La Tour Vieille. They produce 70,00 bottles a year of Banyuls and Collioure, by manual harvesting 10 ha of red and 2.5 ha of white. They practice Lutte Raisonnée viticulture. The grapes are all grown on schist soils and are composed of – Reds: (5%), (15%), (65%), (15%); Whites:  (10%), (10%), (50%), (20%), (10%). So a very typical mix from the area. The grapes range in age from 20 years old (some of the whites) to 70!

All grapes are harvested by hand and nothing is mechanized at all (no tractors) and all wines are fermented traditionally with wild yeasts. They make a white, a Rosé and several Banyuls and late harvest wines, as well as several prestigous Reds….

The white Collioure, “Les Canadells” is vinified in the following way:  the Grenache Gris is pressed immediately after harvest; Grenache Blanc, Macabeo, Vermentino, Roussanne undergo a short skin maceration; then percentage of the wine is fermented in oak barrels with a regular stirring of the lees and bottled 6 months after harvest.

All the Collioure reds undergo pump-overs and all punch-downs are by foot, the wine is bottled 10 to 18 months after fermentation.

A very attractive tasting, I think… I wish I was there but I am actually avoiding the 31°C sun in the Loire….  With Richard’s (and other attendees’) assistance the notes should be with you early next week (although I face a crashingly busy weekend before then)…..

À Bientôt…

The Group met on Thursday 7th May to taste wines from Roussillon.

Here are my notes:

TREMADOC 2010  (DOMAINE MALDOC) Collioure   –   13%   (BBR – £17)
This wine, mostly Grenache Gris, has a woody slightly honeyed first note. A dry (coastal?) slightly salty hint. This contributes to a vague fino impression on the palate: dry minerality with a rather rich and nutty element. Later the wine has a warm feel and tropical fruit (passion fruit?) appear. Later still this overtakes the structure, but a good food-friendly white.
Quality: 15.5/20   Value: 15/20

L’ÉCUME 2011  (DOMAINE PIÉTRI-GÉRAUD)) Collioure   –   13.5%   (LSFW – £15.50)
This has more Granache Blanc, contributing to a herby and apple first nose – with a slight salty dash again putting on in mind of slightly oxidised sherry styles… Later a peachy element develops. The palate has woody and herby hints, with a quiet but firm line of citrus. If the development of the first wine was warm, increasingly rich – this is cool, with increasing focus. I rescored both wines twice during the tasting, but ended up with them equal!
Quality: 15.5/20   Value: 15/20

ONE BLOCK GRENACHE 2011 (DMN. TRELOAR) Côtes Catalanes  –   14.5%  (LSFW – £10.50)
This has 30% Lledoner Pelut, a Grenache variant with smaller berries, thicker skins and more acidity. Black fruit nose, with chocolate hints. Sweet fruit on the palate with a bitter herb tannins and a chocolatey supple finish, and supported by a sour cherry acidity. A lively Grenache, but a little linear and rustic – great with bangers, I’d imagine – and exceptional value.
Quality: 14.5/20 Value: 16/20

VERTIGO 2009 (DOMAINE SOL-PAYRÉ) Côtes du Roussillon   –   14.5 %  (LSFW – £14)
This wine has 30% Syrah, and is pungent at first, then slightly bready notes, red fruit and spice. Palate has a coffee-ish grainy quality with sweet briar fruit and warm tannin. A line of blackberry and apple (crumble?) supports like a backbone, lifting and balancing the wine. Very good!
Quality: 16/20 Value: 16/20

DOMAINE DE RANCY 2011  Côtes Catalanes   –  15%  (Wine Soc. – £11)
This is 100% Mourvèdre, with a (say no more?) Mourvèdre nose: lighter fragrance dodges in and out of a black fruit and spicy, slate line. Supple black fruit, power integrated with the fruit, and sweet spice balancing minerality. A lovely Mourvèdre, and great value.
Quality: 16/20 Value: 17/20

BANYULS 2010  (DOMAINE PIÉTRI-GÉRAUD)   –   16 %  (LSFW – £19)
Honeyed nose, with herbs, orange and nutty notes, The palate is sweet but enough attention to the fruit – apricot – and some spicy and a lively lightness at the finish counterbalance the VDN burn. A classy Vin Doux….
Quality: 15.5/20   Value: 15/20

A very interesting tasting, with great value scores. The interesting thing for me though was the progress of the whites – which both showed complexity beyond their class. I feel the second white was more me, but the first kept developing interest too…. As to the theory that the wines don’t tip over into thickness – well for me these didn’t and, ATM, I trust the appellation more than – say – Minervois!

Until next time…

Roussillon is the Southern-most quarter of the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region of France, closest to the Spanish border. It is, pretty well, the Eastern (Mediterranean) half of the Department of Pyrénées-Orientales.

It makes only about 9% of the total of the whole Languedoc-Roussillon region, equivalent to about 2% of France’s total wine production. However, just under a quarter of Roussillon’s production is Vin Doux Naturel, but that’s 80% of France’s total. More about Vin Doux Naturel [VDN] later.

There are several “dry” Appellations – indicated in this map:
In addition there are several Vin Doux appellations: Maury (the same area as indicated here); Banyuls (the same area as Collioure) and Rivesaltes (pretty much anywhere). AOC/AOP wines make up over half the Roussillon total. Of this 45% is VDN; 33% Red; 17% Rose and only 3% White (about half the AOP white is from Collioure). Roughly ¾ of the AOP wine is made by Co-Ops.

Finally, on top of that, or maybe underneath that, there are IGPs accounting for 40% of the total output. Roussillon wines can be labelled IGP Oc (formerly Vin de Pays d’Oc) the generic regional IGP, but more importantly IGP Côtes Catalanes – which accounts for two-thirds of IGP wine in Roussillon.

Although VDN makes up about 22% of all Roussillon wine, it takes up about 32% of the vineyards, due to lower yields in Vin Doux.

The most important grapes by vineyard area are: Grenache Noir (23%  -about 1/3 goes into VDN); Muscat (18% – of 2 sorts – Alexandrie and Petit Grains – nearly all going into VDN); Syrah (16%); Carignan (14% – some in VDN); Grenache (Gris & Blanc) (8% – 1/3 VDN); Macabeu (8% – 1/3 VDN) and Mourvedre (3%). Apart from VDN the grapes planted are about 80% red.

One would think that – being the most Southerly wine area of French Grenache based wines – Roussillon reds would have a heavier style than say most Languedoc or Rhone versions. While this can be true I have found it to be the exception rather than the rule. Maybe the reasons for that are the lower volumes and prices compared to those other areas. That leads UK Merchants to import only better examples – typically showing more suppleness and balance.

It’s a similar story over on the white side. One would expect flabby and perhaps oxidised wines. To some extent this is true, particularly in Grenache Blanc wines where it is – in some cases – deliberate. However, particularly in Collioure, there is an imperative to produce crisper wines to accompany the fish-based cuisine. This leads to more use of Grenache Gris – which is a richer, more perfumed and racier version than Blanc.

The real hallmark of Roussillon, though, is Vin Doux Naturel. This is made, a bit like Port, by adding neutral grape spirit to stop the yeast before fermentation is complete and therefore before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol. The wines retain some naturally occurring sugar, (usually more than 100g/l) perceived as sweetness on the palate. The final alcohol level has a minimum required content of 15% abv. About ¾ of Roussillon Vin Doux is white – being either Muscat de Rivesaltes, or Rivesaltes Ambré. On the other hand Rivesaltes Grenat or Tuilé, Maury and most Banyuls are red.

Again, the best examples express richness and depth without being too cloying or heavy.

We are blessed with something of a specialist merchant of wines of this, and similar, areas – Leon Stolarski. We are having 4 of his wines tonight (to add to 3 in each of the recent Gard and Mourvèdre tastings). It may be that my impression of unexpected freshness from the region is due to him, or it may be that lower prices in Roussillon, in particular, mean we are drinking relatively better wines…. We shall see…

Notes on the tasting will be posted in 3 or 4 days… Until then…

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