Snow-capped Pyrénées to the Mediterranean Sea – Exploring the Stunning and Diverse Roussillon Wine Region #Winophiles

Snow capped Pyrenees and vineyardVignoble avec vue sure le Mont Canigou dans les Pyrenees Orientales (France) by matteo Scarano Adobe Stock

Snow-capped Pyrénées to the Mediterranean Sea – Exploring the Stunning and Diverse Roussillon Wine Region #Winophiles

Roussillon.  It’s not a French wine region that you hear much about.  But that is changing.  This month the French #Winophiles are digging into this region and of course, we are not doing it the easy way.  In a region known for its fortified wines, we are taking the road less traveled and exploring their white wines.

We are led this month by Lynn of Savor the Harvest.  She did a thorough piece explaining the region, that you can find here. As well as a preview post you can see here.

Join us on Saturday, July 18th at 11 am EST (or 8 am PST) on Twitter as we discuss the wines of this region.  Scroll to the bottom to see the other pieces written by this group of wine writers on the subject.

Where is Roussillon?

Let’s start with where we are. We are in France.  We probably gave that away, since this is the French #Winophiles. And, this is the South of France.  Can you smell the garrigue?

We are on the west side of where the Rhone River empties into the Mediterranean sea, in the Languedoc/Roussillon region. Specifically, we are in Roussillon, the southern part of the region, bordered to the east by the Mediterranean sea, the west by the Pyrenees and the south by Spain. 

From snow-capped peaks to the Mediterranean Sea

When people discuss beautiful wine regions, this should be at the top of their list. Take a moment, immerse yourself in this slideshow of this stunning region with it’s diverse beauty.

  • View of the Catalan Pyrenees, a natural park in France by Leonid Andronov, Adobe Stock
  • Vignoble avec vue sure le Mont Canigou dans les Pyrenees Orientales (France) by matteo Scarano Adobe Stock
  • Haute Pyrenees et Pyrenees Orientales by Jimjag Adobe Stock
  • Coastal path in the Paulliles Bay, France by ThePP66  Adobe Stock
  • Colors French town and castle Collioure by JackF Adobe Stock
  • Beautiful dramatic sunset sky over small bay of Collioure, France by DigiHand

316 days of sun.  37 stunning miles of coastline with the snow-capped Pyrenees rising inland.  The area is sheltered in an amphitheater created by mountain ranges. North you have the Corbieres, West the Pyrenees-Orientales and Mont Canigou, Alberes to the south, and of course the Mediterranean Sea to the east.  Then the rivers the Agly, the Tet and the Tech, cut through the region, creating it’s 3 valleys. 

The winds here are similar to the Mistral in Provençe.  Here however, the winds come from 8 directions. These winds keep the grapes dry and pest free.

The History

This is one of the earliest regions for wine in France, with 28 Centuries of winegrowing under it’s belt.  The Phoenicians brought wine grapes to the shores of the region in 624 BC.

Tautavel on the northern edge of the region is home to the cave Caune de l’Arago in which the oldest human remains known in Europe were found.  Tautavel Man dates back 450,000 years.

The region’s name has two sources; ruscinos was the name for the small prehistoric houses in the capital city Perpignan. The name also refers to the red clay, schist, and limestone soil found in the vineyards, rousse for a shade of red and sillon for furrow. (Source Roussillon Wine – Ten Facts That May Surprise You by Liz thatch MW)

The beauty of the region has attracted artists such as Dali, Matisse and Picasso.  As such it is scattered with museums and of course cafes.

The Culture – French Catalonia

This region is considered French Catalonia or often called Northern Catalonia. As recently as 2017 there was a push for declaring independence from both France & Spain. The people here consider themselves Catalan and the Spanish influence is apparent. 

Foods here often have a Catalan influence.  You find seafood stews, paella, shellfish as well as lots of vegetables and olives and meals are often more of a tapas style.

The Wines & Vineyards

Vineyards in the region can be quite diverse in soil, climate and aspect.  3 rivers and 8 winds, means multiple valleys, with soils that change as they are washed or eroded down and microclimates from different aspects in these nooks and crannies of the terrain. 

While known for Vin Doux Naturel, over 80% of the wines are dry. Here you find the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards by hectare in France. There are 24 grape varieties in the region. For still wines, you will find most often, red blends of grenache, syrah, mourvédre and carignan and white blends of grenache blanc & gris as well as macabeu.

Maury

The wine we chose came from Maury, an area known for it’s vin doux naturel.  Our wine is labeled AOC Cotes du Rousillon Blanc, not because it does not come from Maury, but because it is not a vin doux naturel.  The Maury AOC only permits fortified vin doux naturel wines.

Maury sits on the northern edge of the region in what I find repeatedly referred to as “the hinterlands” in the Agly valley.  I have a friend whose parents own a B & B in the region, and the photos I have seen of the region are enchanting.  It’s a place in the universe that I intend to visit.

Mas Amiel and the gambling bishop

The story… almost 2 centuries ago, the Bishop of Perpignan and Civil engineer Raymond Etienne Amiel are gambling. The bishop bets a piece of land “Domain de Goudous” in a game of cards and Raymond wins.  Thus begins Mas Amiel. 

Purchased by Olivier Decelle in 1999, this is now the largest private cellar in Maury. The property, which when the Bishop lost it had just 10 hectares of vines, now has 170 hectares planted.  Yields, as they tend to be in Roussillon, are small.

While there remains high demand for the sweet wines and it remains more than half of what they produce, they are beginning to focus on dry wines.

Mas Amiel Vertigo Blanc 2015

MA (Mas Amiel) 2015 Vertigo. A white wine blend of Grenache Blanc blended with Maccabeu, Roussanne and Marsanne. From Maury in the Roussillon wine region in the South of France.
MA (Mas Amiel) 2015 Vertigo. A white wine blend of Grenache Blanc blended with Maccabeu, Roussanne and Marsanne. From Maury in the Roussillon wine region in the South of France.

This dry white wine is a blend of grenache blanc, maccabeu, roussanne, and marsanne. The grapes are grown on schist laden slopes that face southwest.  These are younger parcels in the area of Mas de Las Fredes. This wine is aged in vats on fine lees until bottling.

Our Pairing

So what to pair this with? I was channeling the Mediterranean.  While this winery is inland, I can picture the Maury River, running into the Agly, and out to the sea.  As this was a white wine, it was calling a bit for seafood.  We cooked up some mussels and had some crusty bread.  We also paired with bleu cheese stuffed olives, nectarines, capers, green apple, prosciutto (as I lacked any Jamon), goat cheese, almonds, and anchovies.

Tasting Notes

The color was a medium yellow, deeper than I was expecting.  The nose upon opening was heavy with petrol.  After being open a bit, it mellowed to beeswax and slate and carried apricot and stone fruit notes.  On the palate, it was dry with medium acidity and pronounced flavors of unripe peach, Meyer lemon, and lemon pith.  It was heavier than expected in the mouth, rich yet clean, with a long finish.  It is a wine that takes itself seriously.  Perhaps as it is a 2015, this adds to its weight and maturity.  Of course, the lees aging adds to the mouthfeel.  It retails at $25.99.

So, will I venture this way again?

Absolutely.  I am enchanted with the region, the snow-capped mountains, the lakes and rivers, and then the shore of the Mediterranean.  I will vacation here virtually, traveling in a bottle, any day of the week.  This was just a dive into one white wine.  With the variety of soils and microclimates, grape varieties and styles, there are many more wines of Roussillon to explore.

16 More pieces on wines of Roussillon by The French #Winophiles

I am lucky to be in good company. The posts below will give you more insights and perspectives on this region and its wines. You can also join us on Twitter for a chat on Saturday, July 18th. You can follow us using the hashtag #Winophiles. But if you have a comment we would love to hear from you, don’t be shy! The chat starts at 8am PDT

5 Great Resources for More information on Roussillon

Need a place to stay in Roussillon?

I mentioned I have a friend whose parents own a magical place near Maury.  If you are heading to the area and want an enchanting place to stay, look up Villa du Parc in Prades  https://www.villa-du-parc.com/ And if you find you are in need of a Yoga Class while there my friend Anouck teaches in Perpignan. Yep…this is really a region I need to visit. In the meantime, I will close my eyes, sip a glass of Roussillon wine, and daydream of my visit.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

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Robin Renken
[email protected]
25 Comments
  • advinetures
    Posted at 17:32h, 17 July Reply

    We are also so enchanted by this region and it’s quickly shooting to the top of our must-visit regions. We love the wines and from what we’ve been reading and seeing via photographs a beautiful place to visit!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 00:13h, 18 July

      After doing this research I understand why my friends Anouck and Mathieu were so excited to move back there (it is home for them) to raise their son! What a stunning region, filled with great food and wine!

  • Linda Whipple, CSW
    Posted at 21:46h, 17 July Reply

    Robin, your excellent post really transports the reader to this sunny and magical place. We love mussels and simply must try them with our next Roussillon white. Hope we all get to travel again soon!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 00:11h, 18 July

      Me too Linda, me too.

  • Side Hustle Wino
    Posted at 16:38h, 18 July Reply

    What a great read – so much info without being overwhelming! I’d like to win a vineyard in a bet!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 19:46h, 18 July

      I know right? Find a Bishop with some extra land and open a few bottles over a game of cards. Then when you win the vineyard let me know so I can come visit.

  • Nicole Ruiz Hudson
    Posted at 18:21h, 18 July Reply

    So much wonderful info in this post and the beautiful, bright photos make it all come alive all the more! Your spread with the wine looks completely to die for as well.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 19:44h, 18 July

      Thanks. I had such a great time researching this area. I can’t wait for an opportunity to visit!

  • Payal Vora
    Posted at 06:23h, 19 July Reply

    What a delightful post! I enjoyed reading every bit, and your food pairings look and sound superb with the wine.

  • Payal Vora
    Posted at 06:33h, 19 July Reply

    I left a comment earlier but not sure if it went through. In any case, I love the wonderful way you’ve described the area and the wine, and the food pairings look lovely. The post is full of excellent info about the area!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:49h, 19 July

      Please do!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:50h, 19 July

      Thank you, Payal. I really enjoyed learning about this region. It’s so beautiful and there are so many wines to explore.

  • wendyklik
    Posted at 12:07h, 19 July Reply

    Oh Robin, one day I hope to travel to the area. It is so gorgeous. When that day comes I will definitely look up your friends.

  • Lynn
    Posted at 13:08h, 19 July Reply

    Your article took me on a virtual trip from Tautavel man (I’d love to visit assuming he’s in a museum), to Catalan food, back to Mas Amiel and Maury (I sent you a tweet of the carboy choir!), then down the Agly river to the ocean. While a bowl of mussels and Muscadet is nice, I can’t pass up your meal with this wine. I want to go to that Collioure town and see that sunset in the photo you share while sipping Roussillon. That is after a day of hiking in the Pyrennes! Hope we all get to travel soon~~*

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:48h, 19 July

      Here’s to a day in the future when we can meet up in this beautiful region and quietly sip Roussillon together watching sunset! Cheers!

  • Pingback:Adventures in Roussillon white wines #Winophiles | Wining with Mel
    Posted at 17:22h, 19 July Reply

    […] Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles talks about Snow Capped Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea – Exploring the Stunning and Diverse Roussillon Wine…. […]

  • foodwineclick
    Posted at 17:32h, 19 July Reply

    I really enjoyed your overview of the region, sounds like a great visit in the future!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:47h, 19 July

      Thanks, Jeff! Gives me something to daydream about!

  • The Corkscrew Concierge
    Posted at 21:31h, 19 July Reply

    The mussels were such a nice touch. Absolutely agree that seafood is wonderful with these wines.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 22:21h, 19 July

      I was kind of craving mussels and trying to channel the sea to cool me down. It made for a nice mini virtual vacation.

  • theswirlingdervish
    Posted at 17:25h, 20 July Reply

    As I scrolled through your post, I thought I’d picked up the latest copy of Food and Wine! Your photos immediately teleported me to France and I imagined sitting at an outdoor cafe, sipping a glass of wine and munching on a few olives. Thanks a million for the virtual trip!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:50h, 20 July

      Thank you! I look forward someday to an opportunity to write about this region again, from the POV of a visit there (you’re riding shotgun with me on that right?). Then the pictures will all be my own! Until then, I’m taking the virtual trip too! Oh, that reminds me, I have more of those olives in the fridge…what to pair them with tonight…?

  • crynning
    Posted at 00:49h, 21 July Reply

    Oh yes, I need yoga in Roussillon and a stay there, too! Let’s go – I think there’s plenty of good wine and food for all of us to discover. Cheers and thank you, Robin!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 00:51h, 21 July

      I really think it would make for a great #Winophiles getaway! When this is all over we will soooo need it!

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