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31 August 2023

Rosé: Languedoc vs Roussillon.

Is there a big difference in rosé from the Languedoc and Roussillon? Winemakers in both regions tend to have the same red grape varieties - mainly Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault (less so in the Roussillon) and Mourvèdre - and production techniques don't vary much from one place to another. Except for the particular style of rosé intended in terms of colour (deeper redder or paler pink), flavour and 'seriousness' (richer fruitier fuller or more aromatic zestier lighter).

If you have to make generalisations, the Roussillon rosé tradition is closer to Catalonia, Navarra or Aragon in Spain; and Languedoc styles perhaps closer to 'classic' Provence rosé. Although of course, you will find all types of rosé in either region; and sometimes a producer will make a couple of very different pink wines deliberately depending on their and their customers' tastes.
The main choices involved are the varieties in the blend (or using just one), when you pick the grapes - earlier = lower alcohol, fresher acidity, later = fuller-bodied, riper fruit character - and how long these grapes are macerated with the skins to create the desired colour. Either briefly before the juice is run off (paler/lighter) or steeped for several hours (one or two days even) before pressing (deep crimson almost), or somewhere inbetween.

After pressing or 'bleeding' (hence rosé de saignée in French, rosado de sangrado or rosado de lágrima in Spanish, free-run juice), virtually all rosé is finished in the same way by fermenting as a white wine in tanks at low temperatures and protected from air. After settling, storing a rosé in vat on the residual yeast-lees particles (or not) will enhance or refine the style and quality to an extent, from a few weeks to several months depending on how soon the winemaker wants to release it.
Occasionally, a winemaker experiments with barrels to ferment and/or age a rosé to create a more distinctive wine - rounded and textured - with varying degrees of success (who wants an oaky tasting rosé). Grenache and Syrah are often the base for richer coloured fuller fruitier wines, Carignan and Cinsault for fresher lighter ones, and Mourvèdre for a more powerful age-worthy style. But once again, generally speaking. Like saying one region makes better rosé than the other: depends, probably Roussillon, in general!

Here's my A to Z list of top 25 rosés from the Languedoc and Roussillon sampled or quaffed this year (so far - alphabetical by producer: surname or first letter of winery name ignoring domaine, château, le, la etc.).

Maison Albera Rosé des Cimes 2022, Côtes du Roussillon (12% abv): Cimes means treetops or peaks, since this rosé is sourced from vineyards at 597 metres altitude (so it says on the label) in the north-central Roussillon: owner Fabrice reckons it's "France's highest rosé." Unusually a blend of 80% Grenache Gris (short maceration) and 20% Syrah (pressurage direct = free-run juice), giving a light juicy rosé with red fruits and nice crisp finish; tasty. €11.50 France. €9.94/€12.43 Luxembourg. Also: Belgium, Germany, Spain, Japan.
Domaine Boudau Le Petit Closi 2022, Côtes Catalanes: 40% Grenache noir, 40% Syrah, 20% Cinsault (organic); maceration on skins 'overnight'. Quite deep colour, vibrant red fruits and nice crisp finish. Easy drinking and good value. €8.40 France. €9 Germany. €11.95 Belgium.
Domaine Lafage Gallica 2022, Côtes du Roussillon: 40% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 10% Grenache Gris from 3 sites: 100 year-old bush vines Les Aspres, coastal vineyards and upper Agly valley. Lightly pressed and chilled, maceration with lees for 1 month before fermentation, part of it fermented in wooden vats with lees-stirring for 4 months, left on the fine lees before bottling. Aromatic fruit and zesty with pleasing fresh finish yet rounded and lingering. €15.50 France. £15 UK. €14-€15 Germany. CHF 16.50-18.95 Switzerland. €14 Spain. Romania 89 lei. €15.50-€17.50 Belgium. CA$ 25. 149kr Denmark.
Château Montner 2022, Côtes du Roussillon: 55% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 10% Carignan; maceration on skins for 8 hours. Made by les Vignerons des Côtes d'Agly (co-op union based in Estagel with seven vineyard sites in the north) offering another appealing rosé with good fruit and crisp finish. €7 France.

Château Mossé 2022, Côtes du Roussillon (12.5% abv): Part of the Vignobles Terrassous group of co-op cellars in the Aspres (this estate located between Terrats and Thuir). 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah drained and pressed. Zesty and tight on the palate at first, well-made rosé offering weight, fruit and freshness. €7.50-€8.50 France.
Château Planères Prestige 2022, Côtes du Roussillon: Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache; macerated overnight and run off. Attractive lively rosé bridging Provence and Roussillon styles nicely. €10.20 France. €13 Belgium and Netherlands.
Domaine de Rombeau Le Botaniste Figure 2, Côtes du Roussillon 2022 (13% abv): 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah (organic), light pressing and free-run juice. More intense style with lots of red fruits and zesty chalky aftertaste. €12 France.
Le Rosé du Soula 2022, Côtes Catalanes (biodynamic, 12.5% abv): free-run Syrah, spent 6 months in demi-muids casks. Again full-on reddish pink, pretty intense too with depth of fruit and clean crisp bite; fairly serious. €15 France. $29-$38 US (importer Terres Blanches Wine). €20 Belgium. €28 Ireland.
Domaine La Tour Vieille Rosé des Roches 2022, Collioure (14% abv): 50% Syrah (macerated 30 hours), 50% Grenache (pressed directly). Epic Collioure rosé in the local tradition with rich colour and red fruits, full rounded mouthfeel while zingy too. €12.50 France (reasonable for expensive Collioure rosé). £12.89 UK. US$26. CA$22.20.
Trémoine de Rasiguères 2022: 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache (old vines), 6-12 hours skin maceration then cold-settled for 3 days. The legendary deep-cherry coloured big-fruity Roussillon rosé style from the quality Les Vignerons de Trémoine co-op winery. Lots of ripe and juicy red berries and cherries, powerful textured and full-bodied but fresh too. €8 France.

Rasiguères country, source of rugged rosé: facebook.com/tremoine

Château Camplazens Reserve 2022, Languedoc: 60-40 Grenache-Syrah 'bled off and pressed', 7 months in vats. Attractively zesty with nice bite, rose petal and red fruits on the finish. €10 France. €11.50 Belgium and Netherlands. Also: Germany, Denmark.
Château La Dournie Le Classic 2022, Saint-Chinian (13.5% abv): 50% each Syrah and Grenache (organic) with 'short maceration' and run-off juice, 6 months in vats. Good substance and oily red fruity texture / flavour with zesty finish. €9.60-€11 France. US $15. CHF 17.50 Switzerland.
L'Estabel Fulcrand Cabanon 2022, Languedoc Cabrières (13% abv): 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache and 10% Syrah; juice run off after 4 hours maceration then cool-fermented; left in vats on the fine lees until bottling. Enticingly juicy fruity rosé with fresh acidity and textured mouthfeel too. Very good value. €7.90 France. €10 Germany. £10 UK. Also: Belgium, Canada.
Château L'Euzière Mon Ami Pierrot 2022, Pic Saint-Loup: Grenache, Syrah & Cinsault; pressed after 6 hours' skin contact, lees-stirring before bottling. Yeast-lees notes and zippy texture, very fresh finish; was a bit closed up at the time but promising. Dear though: €15 France.
Château Guilhem Vignes du Levant 2022, Malepère (13% abv): Saignée 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc. Tasty rosé mixing nice crisp bite with ripe red fruit flavours; good with rich food too e.g. local cassoulet (below). €12-€13 France, Belgium and Germany. 139kr Denmark.

Domaine Virgile Joly Saturne 2022, Languedoc Saint-Saturnin (13.5% abv): 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cinsault and 15% Mourvèdre (organic); stored 8 months in vats. Successful mix of zesty 'chalky' mouthfeel with elegant rose petal and red fruit aromas and flavours; very nice rosé. €12.50 France. £10-£13 UK. Also: Germany, Poland, Czechia.
Château Lancyre D'Ici On Voit La Mer 2022, Pic Saint-Loup (13.5% abv): Free-run must 50-50 Grenache-Syrah (organic); stored 3 months in vat with lees-stirring. Edgier style of rosé with lifted aromatics, roses and red fruits, zesty and intense finish. €12 France, €13-€15 Belgium, 140-160KR Denmark, CHF 10 Switzerland. US importer: Hand Picked Selections. Also: Germany, Austria.
Château de Lastours Grand Vin 2022, Languedoc (13.5% abv): Grenache, Cinsault and Vermentino (organic): First-pressed juice, 4 months on fine lees before bottling. More Provence than Roussillon in style, well made with tight zesty mouthfeel, subtle depth with lingering rose petal and almond notes. €15 France. £14-£16 UK. €14-€15 Netherlands and Belgium.
Domaine La Linquière Fleur de Lin 2022, Saint-Chinian (13.5% abv): Saignée of mostly Grenache with Syrah, 3 months in oak casks on the lees. Lively Provencesque style rosé with yeast-lees intensity and fresh finish. €10.50 France and Belgium.
Domaine La Louvière Le Marquis 2022, Malepère (12.5% abv): Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cinsault, Malbec (organic). Appealingly fruity and crisp with rounded vs zesty finish. Quirky kinky labels too. €9.50 France and Germany. €12.30 Belgium.
Domaine Le Nouveau Monde Un Monde en Rose 2022, Languedoc: Mostly Grenache (organic). Aromatic and zingy, subtle rose petal and red fruits, tasty finish. €13-€14 France. CHF16 Switzerland. €14 Germany.

Château Rouquette-sur-Mer Cuvée Adagio 2021, La Clape (13.5% abv): Grenache and Syrah. Really deep colour, rich and full-on fruit and texture, rounded fruity finish; seems to have benefitted from that extra year in bottle. £10 UK (Wine Society). CA $26. 2022: €10-€12 France, Belgium, Germany. €14.50 Austria.
Château Sainte Eulalie Printemps d'Eulalie 2022, Minervois (13.5% abv): 25% each Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre; free-run and pressed juice. Nice mix of aromatic almond-edged red fruits, yeast-lees notes, crispness and quite weighty texture. Good foodie rosé (e.g. Polish pierogi stuffed with mushrooms with garlic mushroom and paprika sauce, or smoked salmon). €7.30 France. £8.75 UK (Wine Society). US $15-$17.
Vignerons d'Alignan-Neffiès Buffe Vent 2022, Languedoc (12.5% abv): Syrah and Grenache. Clean and zingy with gentle red fruits and roses, nice fresh finish. Modest price too: €6.90 cellar door. Also: Belgium and UK.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.