You’re Invited to Discover the White Wines of Roussillon #Winophiles

Roussillon Collioure

           Vineyards climbing the steep hillsides above Collioure, a small town on the Mediterranean in Roussillon

The Roussillon region has something for everyone. Area diversity is vast- the Mediterranean Sea, charming countryside towns, mountains, and certainly, great food and wine. It’s a mecca for outdoor lovers with places to cycle, stroll or just relax. But today what most excites me are the white wines of Roussillon.

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, an area I visited last year with friends. I was so wowed by the white wines-  streaks of minerality, salinity and freshness to fruity, floral, savory and rich- I chose them for our July topic. And today I’m extending an offer for you to join us!

First Things First – The Name

If you’re wondering where the region is, you’re likely not alone.

Often referred to as Languedoc-Roussillon, or just AOC Languedoc, the two are topographically, geologically and culturally different. While they both lie in the larger Occitanie ‘department’ in the southwest of France- Sud-Ouest in French- Roussillon is the section closer to the Spanish border, with most of the vineyard area falling into the Pyrenees-Orientales – the southernmost department of France. Yes, it can be a bit confusing so here’s a map to help!

Occitainie map roussillon

This is the entire Occitainie administrative region. Roussillon lies primarily in the Pyrénées-Orientales department within Occitainie whereas AOC Languedoc in the Hérault. Map source: Tourism Occitanie (https://www.tourism-occitanie.co.uk)

In conversations with Roussillon winery owners and people working in the wine business, I’m told they generally prefer to stay separate.

Understandably so, they both present characteristics unique to their region. Here are a few unique things about Roussillon.

Topographical: Mountain ranges surround Roussillon on three sides — the Corbières range to the north, the eastern part of the Pyrénées and Mont Canigou to the west, and the Albères range to the south. They form an amphitheater shape opening to the Mediterranean Sea in the east. Overall Roussillon is higher and perhaps more rugged than Languedoc.

Roussillon

                                           Mont Canigou behind baby vines at Domaine Gilles Troullier.

Geological: Soils range from limestone-rich red soils further inland to the stony, sandy, clay, and silt soils near the coast. Most of the terrain consists of clay, calcareous limestone, and types of schist, granite, and gravel. In fact wines reflect distinct personalities due to such varied topographic and geological sites. Scroll over the photos below to see what they are, feel free to take a guess first!

And rivers- the Agly, the Têt, and the Tech rivers help moderate Roussillon’s Mediterranean climate where brilliantly sunny days are many.

Cultural: Roussillon was under Spanish rule for years. Many still consider themselves French Catalan and speak a dialect of Catalan.

And finally, Roussillon ranks in the top tier for organic viticulture and biodynamic practices. In fact, AOC Languedoc-Roussillon contains a quarter of the total organic farming land in France!

According to wine experts and authors Britt and Per Karlsson, “The white wines from Roussillon are rather unknown but can be outstanding and are always worth looking for. They are often wines with a great texture and mouth feel, quite full-bodied and with a surprisingly fresh acidity considering the warm climate. Genuinely characterful. And the added benefit of often being excellent value for money.”

Before continuing, it is important to note the two regions were combined into one in the late 1980s but continue to have their own organizations for appellation duties: CIVR or Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon and CIVL for Languedoc- Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins AOC du Languedoc.

Roussillon White Wine Appellations

Historically Roussillon is famous for sweet wines, which continue to be stunning and they’re definitely worth trying. Contrarily, there’s a shift towards fresh and dry wine styles.

  • Three of the nine AOCs (Appellation of Controlled Origin) include dry white wines: Collioure, Côtes du Roussillon and Languedoc-Roussillon.

Collioure AOC – Bottom right in red color

Côtes du Roussillon AOCsage green color throughout map

Languedoc-Roussillon AOC covers the entire region, all colors

 

  • All three of the IGPs (Indication Géographique Protégée) include white wines: Côtes Catalanes, Côte Vermeille and IGP d’OC.

Roussillon IGP Map

IGP Côtes Catalanesorange area

IGP Côte Vermeille – bottom right red, covers same small area as Collioure

IGP d’Oc (Languedoc-Roussillon IGP) – covers the entire region

 

And the sweet wines I was talking about above, four of the five fortified sweet wine or Vins Doux Naturels (VDN) AOC include white wines: Rivesaltes, Muscat de Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls.

Roussillon VDN

Rivesaltes AOC and Muscat de Rivesaltes AOCsage green color

Maury AOC – small orange area, upper left

Banyuls AOCyellow color bottom right

 

Additionally, and similar to other regions in France, some winemakers choose to bottle wine under either an IGP or Vin de France for increased flexibility. The wave of ‘neo-wine’ and young next generation winemakers is very much alive in Roussillon!

The Grapes

Anyone who likes trying less common grapes and interesting cuvees will be happy reaching for a Roussillon white. While the international grapes Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are grown here, the keystone varieties are Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, which form the backbone of many wines. Other varieties used more frequently include Macabeu (Macabeo in Spain and Viura in Rioja), Muscat à Petits Grains Blanc, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino (aka Rolle in areas of France), Viognier and Carignan Blanc.

Beyond these, a total of 56 grape varieties are approved for use in the IGP white wines, many new to me.

The Wines

Roussillon white wines are worth seeking out for their flavor, depth of character and overall bright and appealing personalities. From citrus, melon and floral to herbaceous, salinity and mineral freshness, there truly is a style for everyone. You can feel the sea breeze in the wines!

Rancio

Another less known Roussillon wine style is Rancio. It’s defined as dry- all of its sugars are fermented into alcohol. “Rancio” refers to the wine’s aging in barrels partially filled, an environment encouraging oxidation. It’s usually made with Grenache (Grenache Blanc for the whites) or Macabeu grapes, the same used for making Banyuls, Maury, and Rivesaltes sweet wines. Rancio Sec (dry) reminds me of dry sherry and is an acquired taste. Think salty nuts, olives, anchovies for an apéro pairing with Rancio, or instead of Armagnac or Cognac after dinner. Rancio Doux (sweet) can be absolutely stunning sipping by itself or with dessert.

How To Join

If you are a food and/or wine writer or blogger, this is your invitation to join us.

Contact me with: your blog url, Twitter handle, and any other social media details. If you know your blog post title, include that. But you can send it closer to the event too. We’d just like to get a sense of who’s participating and give some shout-outs and links as we go. My email address is: lwg.mine@gmail.com

Send your post title to me by Monday, July 13th to be included in the preview post. I prepare a preview post shortly after receiving titles, linking to your blogs. Your title should include our hashtag “#Winophiles”.

Publish your post between Friday, July 17th and the morning of Saturday, July 18th. You can always schedule your post in advance if you will be tied up that morning.

In your post include links to the other #Winophiles participants and a description of what the event is about. I’ll provide the HTML code that you can easily put in your post — which will link to people’s general blog url. The updated code for the permanent links to everyone’s #Winophiles posts will be available no later than Sunday July 19th.

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. If you need an invitation please let me know.

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 received as a free sample.

Until then, stay safe, santé!

20 thoughts on “You’re Invited to Discover the White Wines of Roussillon #Winophiles

  1. robincgc

    Ahhh…thank you for the Master Class in Roussillon! I found a wine, I hope that it will arrive uncooked (it’s shipping). I am so excited to dig into this region! I have friends who live there that I will need to be in touch with. Another friend, I believe her parents own and operate a B&B and restaurant. They happen to have the surname Maury! Can’t wait to find out more and share!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Yeah to our joining Robin! How great is that having a friend there. Do your friends by chance own/work at a winery? Would love to get the B&B/restaurant name because as soon as I get my FR DL, Roussillon will be my first road trip post lockdown. But I’m betting that info might show up in your article.

      Reply
      1. robincgc

        I believe it is in Prades about 25 miles from Perpignan. It is called La Villa du Parc. It is a renovated 1930s mansion turned into suites. I was looking up the details this morning.

        Reply
  2. JOhn

    Well… looks like a stunning place to visit, hike, stroll and partake in some newer, drier, wine varietals. And to learn about the regions leadership in organic-biodynamic practices is a great to see. They’ll have my support!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Yes! The area is stunning, it has a little of a lot, and a lot of very nice wines. Glad they have your support John!

      Reply
  3. Allison Wallace

    One of our most memorable bottles early in our relationship was from languedoc that was not only delicious but ridiculous value. We are very much hoping to join this chat…now to figure out specifically what we’re going to write about!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Ahhh, sorry Jeff. I’m a little surprised… ?!? I’ll dig a bit and let you know of any importers I find. In the meantime, Bonne chance!

      Reply
  4. Melanie

    Only 2-3 bottles of white Roussillon at my local liquor store, so hoping to snag one in the next couple of days and see what it inspires me to write. Will send you an email once I know. Also, thanks for the excellent break-down above. Definitely clears some things up in terms of the geography.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Super you found a few bottles Melanie. Not sure if you have anything like Total Wine or smaller specialty wine shops where you’re located? We are glad to have you join us if inspired by the wine and great that the information was helpful!

      Reply
      1. Mel

        Sadly we don’t have anything like Total Wine here in Ontario (Canada), but I was able to get my hands on a couple of bottles of Roussillon chardonnay. Looking forward to tasting them!

        Reply
        1. Lynn Post author

          I’m looking forward to hearing about them, I haven’t had many Chardonnay from this region.

          Reply
  5. Cathie Schafer

    So much info here Lynn! I’m jumping in this month – just ordered some wines. I just had a beautiful Grenache Blanc from California that has me really wanting to learn more about this varietal, can’t wait to compare my Roussillon selections.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      So glad you’re joining the group this month Cathie. It’s been great to learn more about this grape, and the others used in Roussillon whites. Chat with you on the 18th!

      Reply
  6. Allison Wallace

    Fantastic overview and we’re excited to participate. The only challenge is that our kids/grandkids are visiting for a limited time that weekend so the twitter chat is going to be a challenge. Either way, we’ll enjoy reading all about these wines and doing our own bit of research!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Allison, go enjoy those kids! The articles will be waiting for you 😉

      Reply

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