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01 February 2007

Roussillon: La Coume du Roy, Maury

The de Volontat-Bachelet family has a shop down on the main road coming into Maury, but the real fun goes on in the cellar up the hill. At least, fun to watch Jean-Francois ("a bit crazy") clamber around behind and on top of huge old casks drawing off samples of different ages and styles of Maury wines, and tasting them just as they come - the vintage dates below are correct by the way. He amusingly described himself as "only the husband and winemaker, my wife's (Agnès) the owner," who is in fact the sixth generation owner of these cramped cellars (built in 1932) and 25 ha (62 acres) that provide those precious grapes.Demijohns of ageing Maury from www.vinsduroussillon.comThere are essentially two styles of Maury - on a basic level: in reality, there are almost as many as any producer wishes to make! (Same principle for Banyuls, more or less) - both using mainly the same variety: Grenache noir (and Macabeu, Grenache blanc and/or Grenache gris for the rarer white). The more (or less) oxidised, aged one where (for red) the grapes undergo a 4-5 day maceration on skins (or less even) and short fermentation to obtain colour and desired sugar level, then are pressed and the juice fortified with spirit (leaving about 100 grams/litre residual sugar). The other style is said to date from around the mid 1980s: "muté sur grains," meaning the entire must with the berries macerating in it is fortified, stopping fermentation with around 80-85 g/l RS; followed by 2 to 4 weeks maceration on the skins before pressing (avoiding oxidation), which gives much richer colour and tannins. This type of Banyuls is sometimes bottled relatively soon, depending on the exact style you want - after a period in vat or filled-up barriques - and sometimes aged a little longer in bottle before release (so, technically similar to Vintage or Late Bottled Vintage Port, depending on if and how long in barrel). Whereas the traditional approach is to mature it in vats and/or large old casks, and usually not topped up, or even glass demijohns outside, to promote oxidation, like e.g. Banyuls "Grand Cru" or Tawny Port styles.
Coume du Roy also make Muscat de Rivesaltes and a little Côtes du Roussillon Villages red. As for Maury, there's often a story behind each of the great vintages kept back and when they're transferred from cask. There's still a tiny bit left of the original 1880 (see note below); the 1939 was replaced by the 2000, their daughter's birth date; the 01 with the 98, the year they took over the property etc. Apparently up to 10% of the wine is lost per year in evaporation. Apart from doing 35 wine shows in France every year,
Jean-Francois is active in the US, Japan, Belgium and Denmark. They also "sell a lot to British tourists but very little in the UK," he said, proving that people do like unfamiliar wines once they've tried them. 

Tasted 4th Sept 2006:
2004 Maury from vat ('muté sur grain') - lovely spicy blackberry fruit, aromatic and rich with light leather notes; power v sweetness v nice bite. €10 87+
2004 Maury from vat (traditional) - more subdued with more chocolate and leather, lighter palate with alcohol and sugar less integrated at this stage.
1998 ('muté sur grain') - browning colour, nice pecan and caramel notes turning into richer pruney fruit tinged with Madeira-type complexity; wild mint edges mix with lush sweetness v tannin dryness, plus oily pure fruit finish. €12.40 50cl 90-92
1932 - orangey brown, very interesting
volatile Madeira-type nose with toffee and orange peel edges; the 16.6% alcohol seems more obvious here, but this is delicious with its savoury v sweet, old yet youthful class. €190 50cl 95+
1880 - wow: liquid treacle, dark and thick; very volatile with coconut notes, incredibly rich molasses and caramelised raisins with dense lush finish; extraordinary stuff, seems pathetically futile to give it a score!

Tasted Feb 2007:
2003 Maury (17%) - enticing developing savoury leather notes on top of spicy liquorice and prune, rich earthy chocolate palate with nice bite of tannins and alcohol keeping check on the sweetness. Drinking now but plenty of life in it yet.

13 Route de Cucugnan, 66460
Maury. Tel: 04 68 59 67 58, mobile 06 86 49 39 52, 04 68 59 02 11 (shop); www.lacoumeduroy.com

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