France: Languedoc Roussillon

North and West of Perpignan

Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Rivesaltes and Maury
By Richard James

This Guide was last updated on 22 April 2010
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Main wine styles

Reds

Typical blends are made mainly from Grenache Noir, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre with some Llandoner Pelut and Cinsault. Robust, richly fruity, spicy wines. Some are aged in oak for one year or longer and produce wine with great structure and ageing potential; whilst others, with a proportion of the harvest vinified by carbonic maceration, produce lighter more supple reds for early drinking.

Rosés

Considerably improved in recent years, dry, fruity and fresh styles produced from blends of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah using the saignée method. Some of these often delicious rosés are more structured and powerful wines, which are ideal with a wide range of foods. Look out for the benchmark style named Trémoine de Rasiguères.

Whites

Traditionally have lacked acidity in this region but they have improved greatly, due to new plantings at altitude and better handling in the vineyard. In particular, there are many increasingly good, dry zesty Vin de Pays Muscats; aromatic blends of Macabeu, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Vermentino or Tourbat; as well as an upsurge of occasionally outstanding, barrel-fermented whites based on Grenache Blanc and/or Grenache Gris.

Vins Doux Naturels

These wines are produced by the mutage process, adding grape spirit to the juice at the start of fermentation, which stops fermentation leaving some residual sugar.  Rigid criteria concerning alcohol and sugar levels have to be met before wines are accepted for AC status, and yields are kept low to control stocks. Some wines undergo barrel ageing for up to three years which gives them a distinct raisiny (reds) or nutty (whites) flavour. The range of styles is diverse depending upon producer preference, as well as the different methods of vinification and ageing. Maury may show hints of cocoa and black cherry when young that develop into grilled almond, honey and kirsch on ageing. Vintage-style Maury (or 'muté sur grains') tends to be richer and more tannic, whereas traditional wines (which might be labelled 'Hors d'Age' or 'Réserve') have a rancio or oxidative character especially those that have been matured in unfilled barrels or demijohns.

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