Roussillon Ready

In all my wine time, I’ve always mentally attached the region of Roussillon to Languedoc . It’s like the powers that be somehow thought neither region had enough going on to attract attention on its own, so it saddled the two together making for a very confusing mish-mash of terroirs. No wonder I had trouble studying “Languedoc-Roussillon” for my WSET Diploma test. It’s like trying to study the Rhône Valley as a whole, as opposed to first figuring out the Northern Rhône before progressing to the Southern. You shouldn’t. The two don’t really have much in common beyond the river, and Languedoc and Roussillon don’t even have that. So now, Roussillon is ready to go rogue. In all the right ways. Aha! I thought, upon this realization. I can dial in on Roussillon. Surely that will simplify things! Not so much. Rather, it’s kind of like you see the person in front of you. A human body seems like one cohesive unit, but dig deeper, and you find out they are made of bones, flesh, organs and more. And those organs are made of cells, all of which have a ton of parts. And eventually you are at atoms. And then protons and neutrons and electrons, and muons and more, and they are all spinning in different directions, and what I’m saying is that clearly Roussillon and quantum physics have a lot in common. They’re quark-y. Situated in southern France with the Mediterranean Sea to the east and Spain to the south, Roussillon is at times more Catalan than French—right down to speaking Catalan. It’s walled in by the Corbières, the Pyrénées and the Albères. The region has a Mediterranean climate with a crazy quilt of soils, slopes (80% of the vineyards are on hillsides), and aspects. With about 2000 different growers, coops used to be of great importance, but more and more winegrowers are striking out on their own. The reputation of the region may have been built on the reputation of the Vins Doux Naturel, but the growing trend has been towards dry wines. On a recent virtual visit to Roussillon, over and over I heard the winemakers I met intone “freshness”! That is what they seek. Another growing trend has been that of organic and/or biodynamic and/or natural winemaking. And the weather is quite conducive to that. Part of that is the abundant winds (up to eight of them!) speeding through, drying the vineyards and making it harder for rot and disease to set in. Memorizing the names of the winds is my next wine-studies task. When not getting off on learning soil types, your girl leans into winds. And currents. Geology and geography. Get with the program. So these dry, fresh, organic wines—what grapes are they made of? Well, the first thing to know is that blends are the name of the game. Ready for the protocol of permitted varietal percentages in Roussillon? I’m not. It’s more confounding than parking signs in Los Angeles. For instance: blends are mandatory for Côtes du Roussillon and the Villages. A Villages is only red, and can be made of Carignan Noir , Grenache Noir , Lledoner Pelut , Syrah and Mourvedre . It must contain a minimum of 2 varieties, with the dominant one making up at least 70% and Syrah and Mourvedre cannot be over 30% together or separately. And these stats all vary for the different named villages such as Tautavel or Les Aspres . And of course, the whites all have rules too—but I can at least tell you that in terms of white varieties, you’ll encounter Muscat , Grenache Blanc , Marsanne , and more. It’s no wonder some winemakers opt to simply label their wines as the IGP Côtes Catalanes or Côte Vermeille. Or Pays d’Oc, which covers not just Roussillon but some other southern regions to boot—ergo most would prefer the former titles. The IGP wines have more options both in terms of grape varieties and blending rules. Before I dive into the wines I adored, I would wish to tell you more of the luscious Vin Doux Naturels I tried, that’s a topic deserving of a column all its own. Today we get into those fresh dry delights. And now, the wines that turned my head! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 2020 Dom Brial “Latitude 42.75” A IGP Côtes Catalanes—seeing as it is 100% Muscat, it isn’t eligible for an AOC-type titling, and I’m glad. This is a fabulous dry Muscat. Full of orange blossom and clover honey and roses. So many flowers and also good acid with a lightness of spirit and honeyed goodwill. 2018 Domaine Gardiés “Clos du Vignes” Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel A Grenache/Carignan/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend! I saw this as purple/blue satin. Energy! 75-year-old vines. Linear and mineral, it has bright acid and some weight speaking to pomegranate and dark cherries along with unabashed plums—tart and spicy. 2020 Terrasses de L’Arago “Eleccio” Côtes du Roussillon Blanc Delightful Grenache Blanc/Roussanne blend. Very melon-y! Flesh-y but has a spark. A mineral spark with honeydew and white nectarine. Manages to be lush and vibrating with energy. 2019 Mas Bécha “Barrique” Côtes du Roussillon Villages Beautiful and decadent! Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre blend that hung out in oak for nine months. The perfect combo of oak with all the colors of fruit. Ripeness countered with tartness, muscle and flesh. Like lying in a bed so comfortable you want to just stay in it and…drink wine? 2018 Coume del Mas “Quadratur” Coullioure Rouge A Grenache/Mourvèdre/Carignan blend that shows all the freshness one could want. The winemaker is from Scotland! And a huge fan of “sunshine wines”. Smells of dark brambly fruits plus blueberries and jam, with a hint of pepper n’ spice. And somehow, it makes me think of the ocean. It has cut and grip—with tannins that hold on while the fruit glides. Finishes with earth. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Hard (Seltzer) Job, Someone Had To Do It Old World vs. New World: Merlot ALL the Wine Cans: Get It 2021 Go Mendocino Ellen in Lalaland, Almost Post-Pandemic Style You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Casleah Herwaldt Wine Situation Final Five! With Matthew Lindsey

Mas Bécha

Barrique Roussillon Syrah Grenache 2019

Beautifully decadent! And one of the few Roussillon wines I tried with a noticeable hit of oak on it and I was into it. The spice of oak was countered with both tart and fleshy fruit. Like lying in a bed so comfortable you just want to stay in it…and drink more wine. Go fig. — a month ago

Ron, Paul and 13 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach don’t know where I’d be without them!
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Probably picking glass out of your sink cuz you can’t hold a bottle🤷🏼‍♂️ good thing you have that drain stopper.
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach haaaaa that’s why it’s there. In case I lose my thumbs

Les Terrasses de l'Arago

Elecció Blanc Roussanne - Grenache Blanc Blend 2020

Delightfully melon-y and who doesn’t want that! It’s fleshy but with an attractive energy. — a month ago

Ron, Paul and 11 others liked this

Dom Brial

Muscat Sec 2020

Fabulous dry Muscat. Orange blossoms and honey and roses and enough acid fo keep things spritely. — a month ago

Paul, Jason and 11 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Your wine filter is quite large, how much sediment were you expecting?
Ellen Clifford

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Hahahahaha I guess the kitchen sink backdrop is not the best…
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

At least there was no hair in it this time,

Domaine Gardiés

Clos des Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel Grenache Blend 2018

Purpley-blues satin energy! Linear, mineral, with bright acid grounded with a touch of ripe fruit weight—dark cherries and plums—then yet again cut by pomegranate. Love it. — a month ago

Ron, Paul and 13 others liked this

Coume del Mas

Quadratur Collioure Red Rhone Blend 2018

Like a GSM but take out the M and add Carignan. This thoroughly fulfills the winemaker’s yearning for freshness out of Toussillon. Smells of dark and bramble fruits but with pepper and spice and somehow I drink it and see the sea. — a month ago

Ron, Bob and 9 others liked this