WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

07 March 2012

Roussillon: 'dry' Maury, hooray...

So, it comes to pass. A little bit of common sense has arguably prevailed behind the creation of a new Cotes du Roussillon Villages (CdRV) subzone for dry red wines, also called Maury. These wines will come (first ones will be vintage 2011 appearing in about a year's time) from the same appellation area (Maury, Tautavel, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet and Rasiguères) as for the already well-known Maury 'Vins Doux Naturels' (sweet fortified reds), so a big advantage on the marketing front from the start then.
In France, they'll have to put 'sec' (dry) on the label as the 'wine authorities' are needlessly paranoid that consumers won't understand the idea of a regular 'dry' red coming from this area, since the Maury VDN name is much better established over the Channel / Sleeve than in the UK, Ireland or the US, for example. This could have been one reason why this new appellation took such a long time to surface, agreeing on the name etc. as well as all the inevitable rules & regs; but I don't think they need to worry. Rasteau, in the southern Rhone Valley, did the same thing a few years ago and it wasn't a big deal: perhaps producers should leave the 'Roussillon Villages' bit on the label for the time-being so the village-area 'concept' is clearer.
Anyway, does the Roussillon, or France even, need yet another, to non-wine die-hards at least, obscure village name on the label? Well, this one has a certain logic - perhaps more so than e.g. nearby CdRV Rasiguères (will this survive given that the latter village is within the new Maury zone? Confusing or what...) - and doesn't make the same original mistake they made with straight CdRV by telling winegrowers they had to have a certain proportion of Syrah in their wine, even if they didn't have / didn't want any. This one does say you have to have a "minimum of 60% Grenache (Noir)" in the blend, which is after all THE sexy Maury grape variety, but, whoopee, no fascist diktat ordering them to include Syrah.
Nothing against Syrah, but this really does give winemakers the opportunity of crafting distinctive wines that taste a bit different from many from the Languedoc and Roussillon. Lovely rich Mediterranean / Catalan reds. Pity the regs insist on having a blend of "at least two varieties" - why not a 100% Grenache, if the winemaker is clever enough not to make something too overblown, as can happen with pure Grenache - although this does mean growers can make up the balance with good old (being the operative word around these parts) Carignan if they like. Or Syrah, I suppose...
Looking forward to trying some of the new wines next year (goes to my World Grenache Competition 2013 report on Châteauneuf-du-Pape & Roussillon, where you'll find some 2011s), or sooner from barrel / vat in the cellar hopefully. Oh, by the way, dry white Maury might well be next on the cards, which also seems like a good idea as certain wineries are already making some excellent whites from this area (currently called plain old CdR).
Sources: Vins du Roussillon and Vitisphere.com.

A fuller version of this piece (including a few "dry Maury" recommendations drawn from this blog) is viewable on Palate Press Story Bank.

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