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27 November 2023

Roussillon: the north continued.

Overlooking a vineyard, Cases-de-Pène Agly Valley.

Continuing this year's series of tasting and touring articles on the Roussillon, this time we're heading back north to the Agly Valley to supplement a previous piece on the Maury area, as well as one focused on winemakers in central Roussillon (Les Aspres and either side) and one celebrating the region's rosé wines (compared to Languedoc). Meaning there'll be one more report picking favourites from the south (Collioure, Banyuls and neighbouring Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes Catalanes wines).

Côtes Catalanes rouges

Domaine Laurent Batlle 'Villa Cora' 2022: 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir (old vines). Delicious lively juicy fruit with attractive chalky tannins. €9.50 France.
Mas Janeil 'C2' 2022: 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier fermented together, lees-stirring and 'quick ageing' in ceramic vats. Wild herbs and spice on the nose, lots of pure tasty fruit. €16.20 France. 220Kr Norway. Also: UK and Canada.
Mas Crémat 'Les Sales Gosses' 2022: 100% Mourvèdre, no added sulphites, stored in tank. Also has nice pure spicy fruit with a bit of garrigue, easy-going and good value. €9.50 France, €10.70 Germany.
Le Soula
Rouge 2015: 53% Carignan (average vine age 69 years), 37% Syrah (23 years), 10% Grenache (37 years) planted at 350m to 600m altitude; whole bunch maceration using indigenous yeasts, matured for at least 22 months. Powerful wild rustic nose, very intense, concentrated and long though. This eccentric red has often divided audiences, but they have a bit of a cult following. €35 France. £35-£40 UK. $54-$64 CA, $46-48 US.
Serre Romani La Vallée de L'Aigle Rouge 2021: 95% Syrah, 5% Carignan; 50% aged in used casks for 7 months. Nice vibrant fruit, spice and wild herb notes nuanced with oak, firm but well-textured tannins. €15 France and Belgium, €17 Germany.
Domaine Boudau 'Le Petit Closi' Rouge 2022: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault. Pleasingly fruity and gluggable with a bit of bite. €8.50 France. £13 UK.

Côtes du Roussillon Villages including Latour-de-France, Caramany and Tautavel.

Domaine Depeyre 'Tradition' 2021: Syrah 50%, Carignan 25%, Grenache 25%. Lovely pure fruit with wild herbs and spice, a touch of grip to finish, very nice red for the price. €12.50 France.
'Sainte-Colombe' 2021: Grenache 30%, Syrah 30%, Carignan 30%, Mourvèdre 10%. Hints of oak on the nose and palate but it's well textured, tight mouthfeel with chalky tannins, needing more time to come out. €18 France.
Serre Romani 'Né Sous la Bonne Etoile' 2018: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, 18 months in barrel. Again some smoky oak notes but this was pretty rich and nicely textured with chunky tannins vs deep fruit to finish. A foodie red for sure. Quite pricey but they only make 1200 bottles of this label: €35 France. Owner / winemaker Laurent Pratx.
Château de L'Ou 'Compartir' 2020 (15% abv): Grenache, Syrah, Carignan. This lovely red got a bit lost as the producer is based at their main property in Montescot in the east, where most of their vineyards are located, but they also own vines in the Maury area where this is sourced from. Nice big mouthful of fruit, chunky firm and concentrated mouthfeel with supple tannins. Also quite dear: €35 France. £36-£42 UK.
Domaine Singla
'Castell Vell' 2019: Single site 80% Syrah, 20% Carignan; 15 months in cask, 1/3 new. Concentrated and textured with nice maturing meaty fruit flavours. €20 France. 800Kč CZ. Kr230 DK. CHF 46.00 (gift-boxed). €17.50 Germany. $27-$30 US.
Dom Brial 'Crest Petit' 2017: Syrah 80%, Grenache 20%, 15 months in new barrels. This co-op winery's top selection red, it's fairly oak textured to start but has good substance with dense structured palate. I've tried older vintages of this and it does age. €26 France.
Domaine des Schistes 'Essencial' Rouge 2021: Lladoner Pelut, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, aged in concrete vats. Aromatic with fresh fruit characters and attractive chalky tannins with just a touch of bite. €12 France. £15 UK. $16-$20 US. $30 CA. 60zł PL.
Domaine Boudau 'Patrimoine' 2020: 80% 'oldest' Grenache from a block called Clos del Pila with 20% Syrah, eight months on the lees in tanks. Quite solid and dense still but with tasty ripe berry/cherry fruit and good depth. €23 France. £23 UK.

Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut 'Occultum Lapidem' Latour de France 2019: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan; about 50-50 cask and tank ageing. Floral wild herby Syrah notes dominate the nose, aromatic and quite elegant yet with a bit of firmness on the palate too. €15 France. £17-£20 UK. USA. $22 Iraq. $35 Aus.
Bruno Andreu
'BA' Caramany 2020: 51% Syrah, 43% Carignan, 6% Grenache, barrel aged. Gorgeous aromatic peppery nose with herb and pine tones, good fruit vs textured tannins. €18-€20 Netherlands, Belgium, Germany. Kr345 DK.
Domaine Modat 'Comme Avant' Caramany 2018: 60% Carignan (100 years old), 25% Syrah, 15% Grenache (400m altitude); 18 months in concrete vats and old casks (30%), not filtered. Rustic and savoury on the nose while rich and rounded on the palate, fairly firm still but the tannins are well done. €19 France, Germany. £21-£27 UK. $30 US. $49 Aus. Kr180 DK.
Domaine de L'Edre 'Carrément Rouge' Tautavel 2021 (14.5% abv): 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Carignan, 5% Mourvèdre. Lots of delicious black cherry fruit, fresh and soft with attractive chalky tannins. €16.50 France. US (Handpicked Selections, Grapex, Wine.com). Also: UK.
Domaine des Schistes 'Caune d'en Joffre' Tautavel 2021: One plot of mostly old-vine (1950) field-grafted Carignan with Grenache and Syrah (220m altitude), 50% whole-bunch fermented. Pure tasty cherry and berry fruit, soft tannins making it easy going yet it's subtle and moreish. €18-€19 France, Germany, Belgium, Spain. DKK 130. £20 UK. $40 US.
Domaine Fontanel
'Cistes' Tautavel 2020: 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah, aged in used barrels. Concentrated black cherry and spice, taut tannins but nicely textured, powerful finish. Good stuff. €16-€18 France, Netherlands. £20-£22 UK. Canada.
Mas de la Devèze Tautavel 2019: 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; half of the blend aged for a year in 600 / 400 litre barrels (20% new oak). Perfumed wild and peppery, firm and concentrated but not too grippy, wow. €16 France, Belgium, Netherlands. CHF 20 Switzerland.
Domaine des Chênes
'La Carissa' Tautavel 2016: 40% Grenache ('very old vines'), 40% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan ('old'), barrel aged for 12 months. Complex savoury nose, still has a bit of firm structure rounded out nicely by lingering mature fruit. €19-€22 France, Germany, Belgium.

Côtes Catalanes & Côtes du Roussillon blancs

Domaine Fontanel 'Amae' 2022: Mixed plot dating from 1908, 50-50 Grenache Blanc and Roussanne (the latter part barrel-fermented). Just a touch of oak, yeast-leesy and richly textured vs aromatic fruit and zingy finish. Should develop well. €15-€16 France. Also: UK, CA.
Serre Romani La Vallée de L'Aigle Blanc 2021: 80% Grenache Blanc, 20% Macabeu, barrel fermented and left on the lees. A hint of oak is countered by nice fresh 'mineral' touches and a crisp finish. €13 France. €16 Belgium.
Domaine Depeyre 'Symphonie' 2022: 50-50 Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, '80+ years old' from a site in Vingrau. Aromatic pear fruit, attractive juicy palate with 'mineral' finish. €18 France.
Château Les Pins (Dom Brial) Blanc 2022: 50% Grenache Blanc, 50% Roussanne, new barriques for 4 months. Hints of oak lead on to a rounded honeyed palate with balancing crisp bite. €15.90 France. €17.50-€18.50 Belgium, Netherlands. CA$23.20.

Domaine Boudau
Malvoisie 'Pure Souche' 2022: 100% Malvoisie du Roussillon replanted in 2010, lees-stirring in tank. Complex nose and palate, juicy and zesty while quite rich, yeast-lees notes adding finesse and length, delicious. €26 France, Austria.
Henri Boudau Blanc 2022: 80% Grenache Blanc, 20% Macabeu, barrel fermented and aged for 4 months with lees-stirring. Intense and crisp and aromatic with creamy yeast-lees tones, another lovely white. €14 France, Germany. €17.50 Belgium. £18 UK.
Domaine des Schistes 'Algo': Described as 'Haut de la Solera de Rancio Sec' and made from a 60 year-old plot (Las Creus) of very ripe Grenache Blanc also planted with some Macabeu. Aged in cask oxidatively (not topped up) by 'solera' method, Algo is 'taken from the first barrels receiving the youngest wines.' Oxidised orangey colour and nose, fresh and intense mouthfeel vs textured and nutty with long tangy finish. Out there but very good. €20-€24 France, Germany. £28 UK. $36 US.

Vins Doux Naturels (VDN)

Domaine des Schistes
Rivesaltes Ambré 'Solera': 40+ year-old Grenache Gris with some Macabeu picked very ripe, fortified 'on the must'. Aged for 3 years in concrete vats then even longer in old tuns and demi-muid casks, none of which is topped up to promote oxidation. The first wine was added in 1985, and they only take out 20-30% from the casks each time when bottling to retain a good amount of old wines as a base. Each level of containers is filled up from the one above with wines of younger average age, so the oldest are found closest to the ground hence solera (Spanish). Delicious Oloroso style wine, not too sweet with rounded cask-aged texture and lots of tangy baked walnut flavours among others. Yum. €24 France. £28 UK. €28-€30 Germany, Netherlands.
'Joia' Muscat de Rivesaltes 2021: A trendy take on VDN Muscat sees Petits Grains Muscat macerated on the skins for at least a week followed by wild ferment for 10 days before being fortified, with the macerating grapes or after pressing depending on vintage, then storage in old 600L casks. Very different colour and beautiful orange zest nose, appealing bit of texture to the rich fruit and sweetness, very good. US: Volio Imports. €15-€18 France, Belgium, Germany. £16 UK. 125 DKK.
The 'Joia' Muscat and the extraordinary 1993 from Château Les Pins (below) were matched with the entrée, pan-fried duck foie gras, 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 (photo above).
Arnaud de Villeneuve 'Grande Reserve' Rivesaltes Ambré 20 Ans d'Age: old vine Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Macabeu. Long ageing partly in concrete vats then old tuns and barriques, final blend with the youngest wine constituent 20 years old. Very tangy and intense with rich roast hazelnut notes, good bite and very long finish. Classy and a bargain, at home at least: €21 France. $44 CA. 325 DKK. 100Zl PL.
Vignerons Catalans 'Haute Coutume' Rivesaltes Ambré 1966: Grenache Blanc & Grenache Gris, aged in vats and large tuns until bottling. Almost brown rather than amber, this was super rich and intense with lots of oxidised nutty characters. A treat for sure but probably not going to improve - the 20 year old above shows as a better wine overall. €90-€100 France, Belgium, Netherlands. 500 Lei RO. 630 Kr DK.
Château Les Pins
Muscat de Rivesaltes 1998 and 1993: A quirky speciality style produced in the regular MdeR way to start then left in tank for 4-6 months and bottled. So, all the ageing character comes from very slow bottle maturation. The 93 was very dark coloured indeed, like liquid marmalade and quince, unbelievable; tastes like nothing else you've tried. Also paired with foie gras as mentioned above. The 98 was a little fresher even and brilliantly balanced, great match for strong melted camembert.

And as ever, there's plenty more to discover about the Roussillon if you buy my book!

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