I am here to invite you to a wine region you might not recognize, one that is rich in old vines.
Striking in many ways, the landscape is dramatic, the soils diverse, and the variety of wines made in this petit piece of land in the north-west of Roussillon are stunning. This is Maury.
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For the sixth French Winophiles’ event this year on June 19th, the #Winophiles group probe the wines of Maury. They are not always easy to find because the area is small- just about 300 hectares (740 acres)-yet they are worth the search!
Last year the group focused on Roussillon white wines. Information on these and links to all #Winophiles articles are found here.
Maury at a Glance
Located 37 miles west of the Mediterranean ocean in the remote hills of the Agly Valley, Maury is bordered by the Corbières mountains and the foothills of the Pyrénées. Summers are sunshine filled and dry. In fact, Roussillon as a whole boasts the highest number of sunny days in France and has an overall mild Mediterranean influenced climate. Add to this the Tramontane wind and optimal conditions for farming via organic methods exist. Many sustainable farming winemakers call this home.
Roussillon contains the highest percentage of French vineyards and wineries farming with organic methods in France.
The town of Maury is located in the center of the appellation, which includes four other villages. All are on black schist and marl soils for which Maury is famous, along with tiny bits of slate, limestone and red clays.
When it comes to culture, the whole of Roussillon is a hybrid of French and Spanish, very different from the land just north to which it is linked: Languedoc. This stems from being part of Spain until 1659 when it was incorporated into France. The Spanish influence is Catalan and deeply embedded in the culture.
Expressions of Wine
The appellation dates back to 1936. When Maury dry red wines were approved as an appellation in 2011 called Maury Sec, the name of the original appellation was changed from Maury to Maury Doux.
Yet far earlier than that- 1285 -Monsieur Arnau de Vilanova at the University of Montpellier discovered the mutage process core to the wine for which Roussillon is most known: Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs).
While Roussillon makes about 80% of the VDN wines in France, Maury accounts for just a smidgeon- 2%; it is a very small area.
Maury Doux, or VDNs, are historically digestive, aperitif, or dessert wines where the fermentation is stopped before complete by the addition of alcohol (called mutage in French). That addition kills the yeast. The resulting wines contain a bit of sugar and on average contain 15 to 18% alcohol, generally less than port.
After mutage, the wines go in one of two directions: aging without oxygen (reductively) or with oxygen (oxidatively). In other words, VDNs are fortified wines made either like regular wines where oxygen is avoided by topping off aging vessels, or with air exposure for some length of time.
If oxidative, they mature in standard 225 liter or larger sized barrels and are not topped off. This promotes liquid exchange with oxygen. Sometimes glass bottles called demijohns (bonbonnes in French) are preferred. They spend their life outside, the wine inside baking in the sun. If someone describes one of these VDNs as materized, it refers to those sun-drenched wines.
White VDNs are called Ambré and the reds, Tuilé. If you see Hors d’Âge (very old) on the label it indicates a minimum of five years oxidative aging. If labeled Rancio, it reflects a wine that is Hors d’Âge, but with intense oxidative aging, often in glass demijohns in the sun for up to one year before being returned to casks, barrels or tanks in the cellar.
When you sip a VDN, you are sipping part of France’s wine history helping to keep a tradition alive!
Maury Sec – Shifting from Sweet to Dry
On the flip side, Maury Sec wines speak to a newer generation of people who prefer dry wines- the AOC/AOP is red wine only made predominately from Grenache Noire (60-80%), and may contain Carignan, Mourvedré, Syrah and Lledoner Pelut (less than 10%). They age a minimum of six months.
Here we find current and next gen winemakers shifting to adapt to taste preferences. While most continue to make VDNs, dry and sometimes skin contact wines are additions to their offering. Some fall outside appellation rules and get labeled Côtes du Roussillon AOC or Côtes Catalans IGP.
How to Partake in the #Winophiles Fun June 19th:
If you are a wine and/or food writer or blogger, this is your invitation to join us.
Post in the Facebook event or send an email to tell me you’re in: Include blog url, Twitter handle, and any other social media details. If you know your blog post title, include that, or you can send that closer to the event. We’d like to get a sense of who’s participating and give shout-outs and links as we go. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find a wine from Maury. Write up your experience and get ready to post and share.
Send your post title to me by Monday, June 14th to be included in the preview post. I will prepare a preview post shortly after getting the titles, linking to your blogs. Your title should include “#Winophiles”
Publish your post between Friday June. 18th and 8:00 a.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 19th. You can always schedule your post in advance if that is easier.
Include links to the other #Winophiles participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. I’ll provide the HTML code that you can easily put in your initial post — which will link to people’s general blog url.
Once all the articles are live, I’ll send updated code so you can please update the permanent links to everyone’s #Winophiles posts.
Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts’ to comment and share. We have a Facebook group for participating bloggers to connect and share, too.
Join us on Twitter at 11am eastern time, 17:00 CET on 19-June 2021 with hashtag #Winophiles.
Sponsored posts are OK if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.
Old vine photo courtesy of Wines of Roussillon-CIVR.
We’re so intrigued by this region and definitely not one we know well. We’ve been on the hunt for wines from Maury but no luck so far (we don’t get deterred easily though ;). Unfortunately we can’t join that week as it’s someone’s birthday and I’ve found a remote cabin that is completely off the grid! Very much looking forward to delving into the articles that come out of this once we have wifi again!
It’s sad these wines are so difficult to source. Anyone who likes Grenache and Grenache blends is missing out on a variety of yum and lots of it sustainably made. Cheers to being off the grid, have a wonderful time!