I recently attended a tasting at the Maison du Languedoc Roussillon showcasing a number of producers from the Roussillon area of France.
The region lies in the very southernmost corner of France, surrounding Perpignan, and is home to a variety of more or less well-known appellations ranging from Collioure to Tautavel.
It is especially celebrated for its fortified wines of Maury, Banyuls, Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes. These are some of the great wines of the world, but are generally eclipsed by other similar drinks from Portugal and elsewhere. I had the opportunity to taste a Banyuls (by Vignerons en Terres romanes) from 1985 which was still golden in colour and powerfully youthful but with great depth.
I was most struck by red and white wines (and also a delicious Rivesaltes) from Domaine Vaquer, ably made by Frédérique Vaquer who is a vigneronne originally from Burgundy.
In an area better known for traditional southern type (=rustic) wines made from the usual suspects of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, Frédérique's creations stood out by virtue of their more nuanced elegance. Having struggled to agree on a definition of their character we agreed on the term intuition réfléchie or 'reasoned intuition' to describe the way they were vinified. A fellow taster suggested they were Burgundian in style, an impression given by the nose of forest floor and mushrooms on certain reds and which would certainly tally with the origins of the winemaker.
An IGP Côtes Catalanes of 1985 surprised by how it still tasted fresh with notes of garrigue (mediterranean scrubland) honey.
I will certainly be on the lookout for these wines if and when they should turn up here in the UK. And wines from the Roussillon region in general can pleasantly surprise if you choose carefully.
1 rue des Écoles
+33 (0)4 68 38 89 53
I am told their website will be available in the new year. I will post or Tweet when it is.