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09 August 2023

Roussillon: Maury focus - red and fortified wines.

There's no shortage of awesome chunky vineyard vistas like in the photo above around the town of Maury, dramatically and strategically positioned in the (west-) centre of the Agly Valley in the northern Roussillon, piled up against the Corbières hills facing north, down towards the Pyrenees to the southwest and Spain/Catalonia in the sun-kissed distance to the south.
I should add arid to awesome chunky vineyards, since there's been unprecedented drought in the Roussillon over the past year especially in the Agly Valley apparently. Generally, it's been another very hot summer in the region with little rain following a conspicuously unrainy winter and spring. The dire situation isn't a new phenomenon, and vintages 21 and 22 will also have been affected depending on location, but it's got worse by all accounts.
Up until the 2011 vintage, all wines labelled as Maury appellation were sweet and fortified resembling the various different styles of Port. Since then, winemakers have been able to produce Maury Sec (dry) red wines that are also based on a majority of Grenache noir (60% to 80% according to the slightly control-freakish rules). Historically, you are allowed to use up to 100% Grenache to make the region's traditional Vin Doux Naturel wines (VDN), depending on the style, as well as the two 'white' sibling varieties Grenache blanc and gris for Maury blanc doux (there's no dry white Maury).
This report also includes producers and their wines from the neighbouring villages of Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Rasiguères and (the west side of) Tautavel, which lie within the Maury appellation catchment area. Some of the wines featured are labelled as Côtes du Roussillon Villages or Côtes Catalanes (IGP) instead because of the particular style made or varietal blend, which don't conform to Maury regulations, deliberately or not...

Four sumptuous Maury Secs revealed on the tasting table.

Kicking off then with my favourite Maury sec reds tasted on a Roussillon trip back in May.
Jeff Carrel Grenache under my skin 2021 (15.5% abv): Jeff Carrel's winery is based to the north in the Corbières, where his team produces a wide range of wines (and beer) sourced from different growers in the south and beyond (Alsace, Burgundy). 80% Grenache (60+ year-old bush vines) & 20% Syrah (15+ years), low yielding on schist soils. Long maceration on skins, blending of free-run juice followed by storage in tank on fine lees. Rich aromatic dark fruit nose, spicy fruity palate with textured chalky tannins; very nice full-on red. €12 France. £15-£16 UK. CA $35. €12.50-€13.50 Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland. 114 Zl Poland.
Mas de Lavail Âme-Auriol 2021: The Batlle family acquired this leading estate in 1999, located a few kilometres to the east of Maury off the main road to Estagel. 70% Grenache noir, 15% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah (all organic) grown on clay and limestone. Five-week maceration and matured in stainless tanks. Personally, I preferred this style to their other Maury sec 2021 'Ego' (bit too oaky). Concentrated and chunky with dark fruit, powerful and structured with fine tannins. Should improve nicely in bottle for a few years. €14 France. 120 DKK Denmark. €15-€17 Netherlands. £17 UK.
Domaine La Toupie Sur 1 Fil Rouge 2021 (15% abv): I've been following Jérôme Collas' progress for nearly ten years - La Toupie was established in 2012 - which groups together 12 hectares of old vines in and around Maury. 72% Grenache noir (50+ years, black schist north-facing slope), 18% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah make up this stylish wine. One month's maceration, then ageing in vat for the Grenache and the Mourvèdre and Syrah in 400 litre casks. Subtle oak, well made and concentrated with fresh firm and chalky mouthfeel, a little closed up and restrained in style but very promising. €15.50 France. £18 UK. €32 Finland. €15-€16 Belgium. About $23.50 US.

Mas de la Devèze Maury sec 2020: Nathalie and Simon Hugues took over this property in 2012 too, and have since consolidated the vineyards into 30 hectares by buying up some neighbouring blocks and new plantations. The Mas is located in the wilds between Tautavel and Maury. 65% Grenache noir, 27% Syrah, 8% Mourvèdre from plots with marl and schist soils. Pre-fermentation soak for 36 hours, at least one year's ageing in 300 and 400 litre casks. Delicious ripe black fruit cocktail, firm palate but with well-textured chalky tannins, lovely savoury-flavoured finish. €16-€17 France and Belgium.

Maury VDNs
Both of the esoteric sweet fortified reds below were matched with dessert as part of a very special menu created by chef Franck Séguret at the well-known restaurant Le Clos des Lys, on the outskirts of Perpignan. A gorgeous Coulant Chocolat served with Grand Cru chocolate (perhaps one of the best dark chocs I've ever tried, which is made locally for the restaurant) and orange sorbet (below). Both went well with it, the Cuvée Centenaire perhaps having the edge...

Vignerons de Maury
Tuilé Cuvée du Centenaire (16% abv, 107 g/l residual sugar): 100% Grenache noir, this limited-edition 'millennium' blend (tuilé is a cask-aged 'oxidative' style) was crafted from a quarter share each of four vintages - 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 - aged for many years in old 60 hectolitre tuns (i.e. pretty large) before blending and settling in smaller casks. Resembled a very old red Madeira with exotic caramelised dried red fruit notes while complex quirky and oxidised at the same time, but still quite fresh and lively on the palate. Delicious, bargain too: €26.10 cellar door.
Mas Amiel 1969 (16% abv): Amiel is a magnificently set estate sprawling across undulating slopes on the Corbières side of the main road into Maury from the east, which is famous for its collection of old vintage and time-dated Maury VDNs. Made from Grenache noir (south-facing vines) with 5% each of Carignan and Macabeu, the final blend was stored for one year in demijohns left outside then transferred into large casks for 44 years until bottling. Super deep colour, very rich fruit cake notes, still has a touch of tannic grip on its very meaty flavoured finish. Wow although probably isn't going to get much better at this stage. Estimated price (if you can find it): £160 UK, €130-€170 France, $150-$250 US, SG $290.

Domaine La Toupie Au Gré d'Eole, Maury Grenat 2022: 100% Grenache noir (50+ year-old parcel), 90 g/l residual sugar. Stored 6 months in tank and bottle before bottling. Grenat is the opposite of Tuilé in terms of Maury VDN ageing, being an early-bottled 'vintage' style (or sometimes like LBV). This one had just been when I tried it, but it wasn't too fiery/spirity with lashings of pure kirsch fruit aromas and flavours. €17 cellar door.
Mas de Lavail Expression Grenat 2021: 100% Grenache noir, matured for 12 months 'in a reductive environment' (excluding oxygen) then bottled. Rounder more textured style but still fruity with slightly more savoury aftertaste. €15 France. £20 UK. €19 Ireland.

Côtes du Roussillon Villages and Côtes Catalanes reds.
Winegrowers and co-op cellars in Maury, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Rasiguères and neighbouring areas.

Domaine La Toupie PHI Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2019 (15% abv): As in the Greek symbol (see label). This limited-edition (and rather dear) red is Syrah (62%) and Grenache (38%) from schist hillsides facing northeast close to Maury, beneath the famous landmark Château Quéribus. 'Very old' Syrah from La Coume Mijane block and Grenache from La Coume d'en Reynaud. The Syrah was fermented and aged in a new open-top 400 litre barrel for 12 months, and the Grenache in a small egg-shaped vat, which 'promotes convection currents keeping the fine lees in suspension.' Now you know. Rich and powerful red with lovely supple tannins, dark and spicy fruit flavours underlined by oak texture. €38 cellar door.

Les Vignerons de Trémoine
This relatively small and successful co-op winery based in Rasiguères (just south of Maury) brings together 70 winegrowers farming almost 500 hectares of vines in Rasiguères, Planèzes, Lansac and Cassagnes. Their first cellar was founded in 1919.
Capitelles Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2022 'Sans Sulfites': This unoaked red is a 60-40 Syrah-Grenache blend grown on granite based soils. Lovely pure-fruited Syrah-led style with black cherry, wild herbs and spice. Bargain at €8 cellar door.
Le Barral de Trémoine, Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2020: 50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, 10% Grenache from eight selected blocks, aged in new oak barrels. It was quite oaky but delivers plenty of lively fruit and oomph to finish; more of a foodie red. 2020 no longer available in France, but a magnum of the 2019 is €53.

Mas Karolina
Established twenty years ago by previously travelling winemaker Caroline Bonville, the organic vineyards (some certified, some in conversion) are located in Maury (red marl soils), Rasiguères (schist) and Lesquerde (granitic). Caroline makes quite a wide range including Côtes Catalanes red, white and rosé; Côtes du Roussillon Villages and Maury and Muscat VDNs.
Côtes Catalanes rouge 2022: Grenache noir (50%), Carignan (30%) and Syrah (20%), all 30 to 40 years old. Fermented and kept in concrete vats until bottling. Aromatic cherry fruit with a hint of tannin adding some softish texture, very nice easy-going red. €12.50 cellar door. Outside of France, MK wines are/have been sold in Germany, Belgium, UK (£12.99), Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands (€15), Luxembourg (€13), USA ($18) and Canada ($26).

Lots more about the Maury area, its wines and who makes them can be found in my Roussillon book.
Other recent Roussillon stuff: the north continued, the centre & Les Aspres, the south and rosé.

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