In the northwest of Roussillon touching the Languedoc, the small wine region Maury sits in the remote Agly Valley Hills. Wine was introduced here in 600 B.C. by the Phoenicians and Greeks. Historically, neither the Cathars nor Knights Templar came out alive, but the wines produced there did, and are some of the best in Roussillon today. (The above photo is painted on the wall outside of Les Vignerons de Maury cooperative in the village of Maury.)
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This month, the French #Winophiles group of adventuresome wine lovers continues exploration of French wines with a Maury focus. Being a small area, a few members expressed difficulties locating wines. Yet we all prevailed- the article list below contains links to group discoveries. For an overview of Maury and the types of wines produced, click to my previous article here.
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I discovered Maury a few years ago on a Roussillon trip with two wine gal friends. Kim was living in Roussillon and very much in the ‘small and sustainable’ wine know. We visited amazing producers that trip!
Driving into Maury I noticed the extreme beauty, and it certainly is all about extremes: the climate (sun, heat, drought, cold), the wind, the peaks of the Corbiéres, the rocky, stony soils (schist and slate), and the gnarled old-vine vineyards. That wind, the Tramontana… it keeps the environment dry and helps the demijohns, aka bon-bonnes, sing.
Maury’s original fame came from a port-style red wine, Maury Vin Doux Naturel (VDN). Because of it, the name ‘Maury’ couldn’t be used for anything else.
Then, like in many places, Maury winemakers chose to make what they wanted: dry red wine. They stepped outside the AOC and bottled under one of the other wider appellations or IGP Côtes Catalanes.
But voila! In 2011, the ‘Maury Sec’ appellation was created for red wines only.
Today I share some of each starting with two VDNs from Marc Barriot at Clos de l’Origine.
I wrote about Barriot last year, finding his wines hard to resist. He’s a low intervention, biodynamic winemaker who despite no fining nor filtering, manages to produce the epitome of straight, clean wines with a little extra soul.
Vin doux naturel (VDN) wines are made in a manner very similar to port. Alcohol added to a bubbling fermentation stops it before the yeast consume all of the sugar, killing them (called mutage in French). The resulting wine contains varying degrees of sweetness. The difference between VDN and port comes into play at this point; the wine is put into glass demijohns and left outside to bake in the sun for a year. Intentional oxidation occurs and the color lightens. It then goes into neutral oak casks for anywhere from a short time to several years creating a rich, intense and complex wine with sweetness. However, it’s nowhere near cloying. If you like port, these are wines to try!
Old vine Grenache Gris (20%), Grenache Blanc (30%) and Macabeu (50%) grown on black schist, a soil for which Maury is known, produces an amazingly complex, pale garnet-salmon colored wine.
It evinces scents of walking into my favorite Indian restaurant in Chicago: fenugreek, curry, confit lemon peel, bitter orange, and a mixed bowl of nuts, dried fig and candied fennel seeds, the ones served at the end of an Indian meal.
The first sip is pronounced and round with a slight bitter feel on the tongue- the confit and orange initially stand out then mellow. The touch of residual sugar is barely detectable. Instead, a complex yet delicate side takes over. That bowl of nuts and figs dusted with white pepper linger.
While sipping this wine by itself before or after dinner works just fine, we enjoyed it with a latin influenced plate of roasted plantains (sweet and salty), black bean salad with preserved lemon and lamb in pastry dough with almonds and dates. Super!
Winemaking: Fermentation via indigenous yeasts in stainless vats for two weeks, followed by addition of alcohol to stop fermentation. Aged four years, oxidatively, in 225 liter old barrels outside in the sun. Alcohol: 16.5%. Price: 25€ / $38.
Maury Rouge 2017 (Doux) – Clos de L’Origine
Here (bottle on the left), old vine Grenache Noir (90 %) and Carignan (10 %) on those black schist soils produce a deep ruby colored, gorgeously fruity wine. This is for those who like LBV port! The touch of residual sugar is again barely detectable.
It’s a jammy mix of prunes, black cherry, cocoa and eucalyptus; slightly saline on the tongue with a fresh ark of acidity and fine, drying tannins. A layer of cherries and cocoa finish it up and linger.
An after dinner wine to sip along or enjoy with your favorite chocolate dessert instead of Port!
Vinification: Indigenous yeast fermentation stopped after two months by adding alcohol. Six months aging on fine lies in 300 liter old barrels. Alcohol: 18%. Price: 17€ / $30.
Clos de l’Origine wines are imported to the US by Nomadic Distribution.
Moving to the Dry Side
Maury Sec limits grapes to Grenache Noir, Carignan, Mourvedré, Syrah and Lledoner Pelut.
The Sire family farms organically in Roussillon. In this cuvée, 60-year old vines of mostly Grenache Noir and Lladoner Pelut with a touch of Carignan result in a black-fruited wine– just look at that color! Black berry and plum with a brambly quality steeped in oregano and garrigue with a tobacco-like background.
In the mouth, solid acidity highlights dusty tannins and black fruited flavors wrapped in savory cocoa and tobacco. It doesn’t have the length I expected yet still a very nice wine. Alcohol: 14.5%. Price: 18€ / $28. US importer: Volio Imports
The last wine I share is from Master of Wine Justin Howard and Domaine of the Bee. Howard makes several wines including Les Genoux.
A field blend of 100-year-old mostly Grenache, with Carignan and about 15% Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc. This wine was originally bottled as Côtes Catalanes, then Côtes de Roussillon Villages and as of 2019, you will see it as Maury Sec.
The aromas are concentrated, having a floral lift– wild raspberry, blackberry, ripe red plum, Rooibos tea, and garrigue. In the mouth it is delightfully supple with an arc of cranberry tartness followed by blackberry, smoky tea hints and rounded smooth tannins. Deliciously concentrated with a brilliant structure, it’s one of my new Maury Sec favorites. Made in small quantities. Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: 35€. A few Domaine of the Bee wines are available in the US here.
We were so engrossed in the wine and duck pairing, it was gone before I could take a photo. I also see this with dishes ranging from cassoulet to grilled vegetables and meats.
While Maury wines can be a challenge to find, I’m betting you’ll be pleased when you pop the cork!
French #Winophiles – Maury in Roussillon Wine Chat
Join the group live on Twitter Saturday 19-June at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CET. Find the conversation using hashtag #Winophiles and/or enjoy the articles below.
- Linguini with Tuna and White Beans and a Rose from Maury written by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- A Riff on Clapassade + Château Saint Roch Chimeres 2016 from Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Sipping sweet Maury Vin Doux Naturel in strawberry season from Linda, My Full Wine Glass
- Coming home and finding a new home – the stories of two wines from Maury as told by Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- The Maury Region from Cathie at Side Hustle Wino
- Looking at the Sweeter Side of Maury from Susannah from Avvinare
- Maury Savory and Sweet shared by Jeff at Food Wine Click!
- Two Sides of Maury in Roussillon: Sweet and Dry from Lynn at Savor the Harvest
- A Search for Roussillon’s Maury shared by Gwendolyn from Wine Predator