Two Sides of Maury in Roussillon: Sweet and Dry (#Winophiles)

Les Vignerons de MauryIn 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!

Le Clot de l'Origine Rancio Doux AmbreMaury Rancio Doux 2015 – Clos de L’Origine

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.

Domaine des Schistes Maury SecDomaine Des Schistes, Devant le Mas, Le Parcellaire Maury Sec 2018

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.

Domaind of the Bee Les GenouxDomaine of the Bee – Les Genoux 2017

Domaine of the Bee Les Genoux 2017A 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.

Informational Links:

22 thoughts on “Two Sides of Maury in Roussillon: Sweet and Dry (#Winophiles)

  1. Andrea

    “…neither the Cathars nor Knights Templar came out alive, but the wines produced there did…” best sentence I’ve read all day!

  2. Allison Wallace

    What a great choice for a region to explore…one we know very little about! Still a bit challenged finding a wine from Maury here but on the hunt. Particularly interested in the Domaine of the Bee — amazing sounding blend and, well, if it’s a favourite of yours, we’re pretty sure we’re going to love it!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Oh gosh, Domaine of the Bee isn’t currently available in the US or Canada. I’ll inquire if Justin has any plans to get his wines to either. I know you two would love it, a very special wine.

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks for joining in this month Camilla! I’m hoping it isn’t so difficult for you to find these wines in the Bay area, fingers crossed!

  3. robincgc

    What a fascinating region. I love the video of the demi-johns the cans jingling in the Tramontane winds. I look forward to finding one of the VDNs from the region as I do enjoy Port. I will just have to watch and special order it!
    I love your descriptions, I often read them and close my eyes and picture the place. This is most definitely a region I want to visit.

    1. Lynn Post author

      It really is fascinating and extreme all around Maury. I thought I was lucky to visit Mas Ameil on a windy day and listen to the demijohns sing but learned it’s that way every day. Please let me know when you do get there, I’d love to meet up with you! Roussillon is one of my preferred regions.

  4. Linda Whipple, CSW

    Definitely pleased to pop the cork on my first Maury wine. Love the diversity of wines you’ve presented from this tiny region. I have a thing for windswept, remote places so know I’d love Maury if I ever got a chance to visit. Thanks for hosting and choosing this area, Lynn.

    1. Lynn Post author

      I’m glad you found a wine Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed your post and hope you’re able to discover more Maury wines.

  5. Jeff

    You could have named this the 4 sides of Maury – oxidized and non-oxidized VDN’s, Maury Sec and a Maury Sec that managed to find a way to 13.5% abv! Thanks for encouraging us to dig deep, I had fun and can’t wait to visit the region on one of our trips to France.

    1. Lynn Post author

      Great point Jeff. I bet you and Julie would like the area, lots of non-wine activities but so much wine to explore there’s hardly time for other things!

  6. Jeff

    One more thought: how do Maury Sec and Priorat compare? Similar climate, similar grapes, black schist vs. llicorella slate.

    1. Lynn Post author

      All depends on the producer, but generally similarities I find: black fruit rules, moderate acidity, firm yet smooth tannins. I didn’t mention it in my Les Genoux notes, there was a crushed black stone-like tension on the palate. I’ve found this mineral tension in some Priorat wines too. How about for you? It’d be fun to have a “Maury-Priorat” showdown in #Winophiles or #WorldWineTravel!

  7. Eileen

    In a store the other day I asked for a wine from Maury. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any. Perhaps I should ask for Roussillon? I love the off-the-beaten-path wines you share! I’ll keep trying to find Maury and if you have any tips, please let me know!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Maury wines unfortunately aren’t readily available across the US. I’d say search online shops to see who carries a Maury. Chances are if they carry Maury, they probably also carry other smaller production wines. You might have to order from a retailer in a different state to get what you want. I know several people who do so, including me here in France. Good luck!


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