Salvador Dalí was born, lived and died in France near the capital city of Perpignan in Roussillon, not to be confused with the greater Languedoc-Roussillon. He declared Perpignan’s train station the “center of the universe”. He was onto something, loving the people, food and wine. Smart man, I bet he would toast the French #Winophiles focusing on Roussillon white wines this month!
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My April 2019 visit to Roussillon made a huge impression. Those four days were not enough but sufficient to visit several vignerons and taste numerous wines.
We tasted those vinified in stainless steel and others in new and used oak. Amphorae are common as is aging on the lees. Natural style wines are gaining ground (nothing added accept a minute amount of sulfites if any) as are skin-fermented (amber or orange wines) and petillant-natural styles (Pet-Nat). And I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of rich and unique wines with residual sugar, oxidative, or made into rancio dry and sweet styles.
That trip ended with my concluding Roussillon white wines are magically bright and refreshing, thought provoking and complex, and just plain enjoyable to drink!
Below let me introduce you to three smaller wineries shown above that I’ve met since 2019. Note more specific information about the region can be found in my previoius articles here and here. And lots more from the #winophiles at the bottom of this post. Finally, the wines were provided as samples, no compensation was received and all thoughts are my own.
Domaine Rière Cadène
The original vineyards of the domaine go back to 1904 when Laurence and Jean-François Rière’s great grandfather purchased the land. With careers in horticulture, the two switched back to viticulture and assumed responsibility of the family vineyards in the early 90s. Their nephew Guillem (on the left) joined them in 2005 and now they produce about 100,000 bottles annually.
They have 30 hectares so not all vineyard work is done by hand but as much as possible, and in a sustainable fashion, meaning no herbicides or pesticides and instead encouraging insects and microorganisms. They are organic certified but do more including inter-row seedling of fava beans, clover, fescue and more. Because their vines are amid the garrigue the biodiversity is very rich. Here’s what they say:
“We create a fragile but effective harmony between the vine and its surroundings, allowing beneficial insects and microorganisms to get on with the job, because they do it much better than us. Our vineyards teem with precious life.”
Guillem shared they are an artisan family winery who adapts their processes and choices favoring nature and never applying a recipe. They always look to improve to “reveal the taste of their four terroirs”.
What’s especially interesting about the property are the migrating Hoopoe birds. In March, hoopoes nest in bushes and hedges on the estate. They require an extremely biodiverse environment, so the Domaine vineyards make the perfect home. They return each year after overwintering on the other side of the Mediterranean, their arrival a reminder of life humming amid the vines.
2019 Via Augusta – AOP Côtes du Roussillon Blanc
Grapes for this wine are a field blend of eighty-year-old Macabeu (50%), Grenache Blanc (20%) and Vermentino (30%) planted on black schist soil in the Agly Valley. Just 6,000 bottles are made each year.
Tasting Notes: Pronounced lemon, nectarine, peach, sweet pea floral and wet stone aromas. The palate is dry with refreshing acidity and more citrus (white grapefruit), crushed stones, salinity and thyme. The finish is long and citrusy with a good deal of salinity making me think of a splash of sea breeze. A super balanced wine, all components well integrated.
The fourth generation of the Saperas family grows ten hectares (22 acres), ninety percent of which are old vine Grenache varieties (Grenache Noir, Gris and Blanc) in Banyuls sur Mer. A small amount of Carignan and Syrah compliments their line. All vineyard work is done by hand.
This area is called Vermeille Coast, or Côte Vermeille in French. But it’s not French, nor is it Spanish. It’s Catalan.
I had a conversation with Olivier Saperas who shared Covid has been particularly difficult for them. Forty percent of his production is export; forty percent restaurants in France and the remaining twenty percent sold to Banyuls winery visitors. All three were pretty much squashed and loosening up is slow to happen. These difficulties are felt by many wineries world wide, it’s painful to hear and is particularly hard for smaller wineries.
2017 Petit Couscouril – AOC Collioure Blanc
This steep, terraced vineyard of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris sits on the coast in the southern part of Roussillon in Banyuls sur Mer on grey schist soils. 2,500 bottles of this wine are made annually.
Medium-intensity white floral notes, wet stones, Meyer lemon and light smokiness are rather delicate. The dry palate is expressive complex with flavors of citrus- lemon and white grapefruit-, wet stones, fresh garrigue, white pepper and salinity. Fresh, bright and vivacious with a lengthy finish, it paired beautifully with English pea, broccoli and parmesan risotto.
Located in the Agly river valley near Perpignan, the domain is in the foothills of Mont Canigou. It’s a family business with father, sons and offspring all working but brothers Quentin and Louis mostly run the Modat operation. The domaine ceased herbicide use several years ago, was certified organic in 2014 and utilizes biodynamic principles.
2018 De Ci De Là – AOP Côtes du Roussillon Blanc
Tasting Notes: Pronounced aromas of floral (acacia), white grapefruit, green garrigue, fennel and a sour herbaceous note. A dry and pronounced palate that’s lemony fresh with grapefruit pith, white pepper and salinity. The medium-plus acidity is crisp, the finish lasting. Impressive balance, another super example of Roussillon blanc.
A common theme I find in Roussillon dry white wines is a streak of minerality- wet and crushed stones, salinity, and crisp freshness. Each of these wines will be super for before dinner sipping or pair beautifully with grilled seafood, seafood platters, oysters, shrimp… you get the idea! Delighted to taste these wines and hope you can too.
See What Other Winophiles are Tasting, Join Our Twitter Chat!
- Date: 18-July
- Time: 11am ET and 17:00 in France
- Hashtag #Winophiles. Please join us to learn more about Roussillon region wines!
Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers 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 Food Wine Click! presents Banyuls Pet-Nat with Treats à La Buvette.
Allison and Chris from ADVineTURES discuss Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire: The Essence of Rousillon.
Melanie at Wining With Mel tells us about her Adventures in Roussillon White Wines.
Linda from My Full Wine Glass explains A Roussillon Blanc Turns My Thoughts Toward Chicken.
Gwendolyn at Wine Predator give us Testimony to Potential: Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Blanc Paired with Halibut.
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles talks about Snow Capped Pyrenees 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.
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish tells us about Biodynamics and the Butterfly Effect: A Labor of Love in Roussillon.
Susannah from Avvinare pours Muscat de Rivesaltes – A Marvel from Roussillon.
Katrina from Corkscrew Concierge hosts An Exploration of Roussillon White Wines.
Terri at Our Good Life writes about Summer Love and White Wines from Roussillon.
Payal at Keep the Peas whips up Northern Thai Food and a Roussillon Muscat.
Nicole at Somm’s Table is having Fun with Ramen & Saint-Roch Cotes du Roussillon Vieilles Vignes Blanc.
And here at Savor the Harvest I share Distinctive Roussillon White Wines for your Buy List.
Rosemary George, MW on Roussillon:
“The white wines of Roussillon – they are a surprise; given the climatic conditions, you would not expect such individual white wines. With very rare exceptions, the international varieties do not have a place in Roussillon, so the best come from Grenache Gris, and to a lesser extent Grenache Blanc. Also Macabeo is important. There is a little Malvoisie de Roussillon, or Tourbat, but that has been somewhat ignored. Vermentino in a blend can work, and Roussanne and Marsanne. Old vines are important too. And the wines do age!”
Look for Rosemary’s book this fall, The Wines of Roussillon published by Infinite Ideas!