Today the #Winophiles head to Roussillon as we continue our exploration of French wine regions and wines. Our host for this month is Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest who is based in Bordeaux and has visited the region. Here are a couple of her posts about the region filled with information about the region and Clot de l’Origine the winery that she featured. Wines of Roussillon also has a website chock full of information about the many denominations as well.
Map from Wikipedia
Roussillon is a very ancient region with viticulture brought by the Phoenicians. The topography and mountains made it quite isolated for many centuries. It also changed hands frequently between Spain and France and still today has a unique cultural mix and grape varieties in the area.
Map from CIVR website
Roussillon is known for both white and reds as well as for it’s AOP denominations for its sweet wines. I choose to feature one of the AOPs for the Vin Doux Naturels (VDN). I love sweet wines as a category and think they are so underrated, not widely drunk and a missed opportunity for so many that this topic gave me a chance to write about the category which excited me.
Appellation: AOC Muscat de Rivesaltes
This appellation was one of the areas in the region to receive AOC status. It was awarded in 1956, some 20 years after the first three in the region in 1936 Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury. A fascinating history because all of these wines were VDN. This is the only region in France to have such an amazing array of VDN. Other regions such as the Loire and Bordeaux also have fantastic sweet wines but not sweet fortified ones to the same degree. Roussillon produces 80% of France’s VDN.
The area is very hot and sunny with a distinctly Mediterranean climate. An amphitheater if you will, closed by mountains on three sides and open to the sea on the fourth. It is also very windy. The winds are numerous and one that plays a large part is the Tramontane which dries the area and combats the humidity helping to keep grapes healthy and fresh and lowering the risk of diseases which allows for more organic and biodynamic production.
Photo from Google Maps
While there are five VDN appellations, I am focusing today on the Muscat de Rivesaltes, the only one based entirely on white varieties and on the Muscat grape.
The wines are fortified and must have a minimum of 15% abv. For Muscat de Rivesaltes there is also a regulation about the sweetness level, it must have at least 10% residual sugar by law.
The process to make these wines is very interesting and specific. The grapes must be picked at sugar levels of 20-25%, pure alcohol is added during fermentation to kill the yeast and increase alcohol levels and to stop fermentation which leaves considerable alcohol in the wine.
Muscat de Rivesaltes must be made with two grapes, two kinds of Muscat, Muscat d’Alexandrie and Muscat blanc à petits grains. Each producer chooses the proportions however. Most prefer a higher proportion of Muscat blanc a petits grains because it is considered a higher quality grape.
While both of the grapes are muscats, they bring different flavors to the fore. For example, the Muscat à petits grains brings more citrus notes while Muscat d’Alexandrie adds a riper, fuller palate and white flowers.
The wine itself is redolent with honey blossom, orange, apricot and peach. It is a wine with texture and weight on the palate as well, enveloping and persistent.
Styles in Muscat de Rivesaltes
While the other VDN come in reductive or oxidative styles, Muscat is never made in the oxidized version.
There is a category of these wines called Muscat de Noël which are bottled very quickly after harvest and sold young. These wines are more green and lighter in color than the ones that age for a longer time and have more ripe and mature aromas and flavors as well as the color profile in the glass.
Domaine de la Coume du Roy was founded in 1850. They makes both Maury that I have tasted and a Muscat de Rivesaltes, available in the NYC market. Run by the 6th generation of the family, they have 25 hectares, Agnes and Jean-Francois Bachelet a former NATO Peace-Keeping forces. The property came from Agnès’ family and the two have run the winery in its recent iteration since 1998. The family has been laying down wines from the birth years of all of its members for decades so they have a very old library of these wines. The vineyard lies on black schist soils.
Domaine De La Coume Du Roy Muscat De Rivesaltes
Pale gold with green rim, aromas of garrigue and white flowers as well as citrus. Nervy acidity, honey suckle and orange blossom on the palate. Luscious but not unbalanced. A real gem.
With sweet wines I always think that they are the dessert but if you want to try it with something, I think a fruit based dessert or a dry cookies with nuts would be perfect.
On July 18 at 11am ET and 17:00 in France, the French #Winophiles group of wine writers and bloggers meet for a Twitter chat. Our chat focus- the white wines of Roussillon,
Our chat happens this Saturday July 18th, at 11 am ET on Twitter, following #Winophiles. We’re easy to find! And, as long as you append the hashtag to your tweets, we’ll be able to see you, too. Add your tasting notes, food pairings, and travel tales to the mix and, by all means, ask questions. It’s a friendly forum open to all wine lovers. Hope to see you there!
What the Rest of the Winophiles Are Tasting
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla tells us about “A Summer Pairing: Salade Niçoise + Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2017“.
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm pairs “American Bay Scallops with French Roussillon Blanc”.
Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “A Perfect Al Fresco Lunch in Roussillon: Domaine d’Aussières Chardonnay 2018 and Creamy Crab Quiche”.
Jeff from foodwineclick presents “Banyuls Pet-Nat with Treats à La Buvette”.
Allison and Chris from ADVineTURES discuss “Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire: The Essence of Roussillon”.
Melanie at Wining With Mel tells us about her “Adventures in Roussillon White Wines” #Winophiles.
Linda from My Full Wine Glass explains “A Roussillon Blanc Turns My Thoughts Toward Chicken”.
Gwendolyn at Wine Preditor is on the prowl for Roussillon White Wines.
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles talks about “Snow-Capped Pyrénées to the Mediterranean Sea – Exploring the Stunning and Diverse Roussillon Wine Region”.
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares “Why You Will Love the White Wines of Roussillon“.
Payal at Keep the Peas whips up “Northern Thai Food and a Roussillon Muscat”.
Katrina from Corkscrew Concierge “An Exploration of Roussillon White Wines”.
Terri from Our Good Life tells us about “Summer Love and White Wines from Roussillon”.
Nicole at Somm’s Table has “Fun with Ramen & Saint-Roch Côtes du Roussillon Vieilles Vignes Blanc”.
Lynn, our host, from Savor the Harvest shares “Distinctive Roussillon White Wines for Your Buy List”
and here at Avvinare I share “Muscat de Rivesaltes – A Marvel from Roussillon”.