#WinesOfRoussillon with M. Chapoutier, Chateau Planeres, Gérard Bertrand, Domaine Cabirau, Domaine Cazes and Domaine La Tour Vieille

Hello Friends,

I recently had an opportunity to join a virtual roundtable with Snooth and friends to explore the Roussillon region of southern France. Not to be confused with the greater Languedoc-Roussillon, the southern province of Roussillon sits within the Languedoc but is a much smaller wine-growing area. The Roussillon curves around the Mediterranean coast to the east and is surrounded by three mountainous areas to the north (the Pyrenees), west (the Mont Canigou), and south (the Albères). The region’s varied landscape, ample sunshine, and warm-to-hot climate are good for the cultivation of vines. The Roussillon contains 14 Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) wines produced from upwards of fifteen grape varieties and produces dry still wines and fortified sweet wines. Varieties include Grenache Blanc, Muscat, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Carignane - - all of which are known and sought out (in blends or on their own) by many wine savvy US consumers.

#WinesOfRoussillon Tasting with Snooth & Friends

Once known for mass produced ordinary wines, a move from large cooperatives to small-scale quality production; lower yields; improved vineyard management and cellar techniques, have ushered in a renaissance in the region’s wine industry with a focus on quality and wines that show a sense of place. All of the wines I sampled for this tasting were under $30 and each possessed very good quality-to-price ratio. Whether bright and white, rich and red, or scrumptious and sweet, consider adding wines from the Roussillon to your dinner table. The region’s red wines will go well with just about anything off the grill (hint-hint). For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.

M. Chapoutier 2014 Bila-Haut Blanc

M. Chapoutier 2014 Bila-Haut Blanc (SRP $16): This is a consistently enjoyable and affordable wine. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeu, this wine offers soft notes of citrus zest, bright yellow-fleshed fruit, bruised apple, and a suggestion of wet stone on the nose and palate. It is medium-bodied, clean, and fresh in the mouth, with well-placed acidity that will complement a wide variety of foods. It sips nicely on its own, too –particularly on a warm spring or summer day outdoors with friends. I’ve seen this wine under the SRP and it’s a great candidate for a house-white, so be sure to stock up. You may notice the circular bumps on the label. Since the mid 90s, producer Michel Chapoutier has put Braille on his labels as tribute to Maurice de la Sizeranne, who invented the first abbreviated version of Braille and whose family owned Mr. Chapoutier’s renowned Hermitage vineyard, La Sizeranne. Region: Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 13%, all stainless, cork enclosure, imported by HB Wine Merchants in NY. Click here to find this wine.

Chateau Planeres 2013 Les Aspres La Romaine

Chateau Planeres 2013 Les Aspres La Romaine (SRP $25): Grown in the foothills of the Albères Mountains on clay and gravel soils, this appealing blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, and 20% black Grenache has a supple entry leading to blackberry, plum, and ripe raspberries followed by a dusting of white pepper and cocoa powder. The flavors are underpinned by a firm core of acidity and supported by a frame of refined tannins that gain momentum through the lingering finish. There’s some richness, a lot of freshness, and a bright streak that extends from start to finish. This wine opens nicely the longer it stays in your glass and becomes quite enjoyable, especially when paired with food. It’s also a good cellar candidate, as it has all the right components to develop additional bottle complexity and further integrate. Region: Les Aspres, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 13%, manual harvest, maturation in new Burgundy barrels for 12 months, cork enclosure, imported by The Wine Source, Inc. in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Tautavel 

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Tautavel (SRP $18): Grown in the small village of Tautavel, this wine is composed of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Carignane. Tautavel is steeped in history and situated in the Roussillon between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. Ripe juicy flavors of black cherries, red plum, and blackberry preserve are nicely wrapped in a ribbon of mocha spice and pepper. In the mouth, it is full-bodied and well-proportioned; somewhat concentrated, yet light on its feet thanks to a nice lift of acidity. Medium-firm tannins anchor a medium-long, satisfying finish. While delightful on its own, it would be even better with anything off the grill. Region: Les Tautavel, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 15%, manual harvest, vinified separately before blended, 10 months in barrel, bottle aged before release, cork enclosure, imported by USA Wine West in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine Cabirau 2013 Serge & Nicolas

Domaine Cabirau 2013 Serge & Nicolas (SRP $26): Wines of the Maury Sec appellation must be blends of at least two varieties. This wine is composed of 60% Grenache, 28% Syrah, and 12% Carignane. The Cabirau is a 13.5 acre vineyard in the Roussillon. This site includes a prized 3.5 acre parcel of 60 year-old vines, which is where the Grenache fruit comes from. Deep ruby in color and aromatically pleasing, an enticing mixture of spiced black cherries and dark skinned fruit tones coat the mouth with an appealing but slight mineral layer and undertones of bitter cacao. The flavors are framed in dusty tannins; particularly on the mid-palate, with a medium-long peppery finish. This robust wine would be a wonderful addition to any feast with substantive fare. Region: Maury Sec, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 14.5%, manual harvest, Grenache unoaked, Syrah & Carignane undergoes ML and 5 months maturation in 500L demi-muids, cork enclosure, imported by Hand Picked Selections, Inc. in VA. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine Cazes 2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes

Domaine Cazes 2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes (SRP $15): This selection delivers a lot of appeal for a very reasonable price. A 50/50 blend of Muscat d'Alexandrie and Muscat à petit grains, this wine is made with organic and biodynamic grown grapes. The Muscat de Rivesaltes is a Muscat-based appellation specializing in naturally sweet, fortified wines. Medium amber in color, an inviting nose leads to flavors of dried stone fruit, white flower, honey, and citrus peel with an intriguing nutty component. Ample acidity gives balance to the wine’s rich texture and sweetness, inviting another sip. Enjoy as an after dinner sipper with fruit tarts, pound cake or blue-veined cheeses. I should note that this is a 750ml, not a half-bottle. Region: Muscat de Rivesaltes, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 15.5%, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine La Tour Vieille 2014 Banyuls Rimage

Domaine La Tour Vieille 2014 Banyuls Rimage (SRP $30 / 500ml):): Banyuls is a fortified, sweet wine produced at the southern edge of the Roussillon in southern France. This selection is a ‘Banyuls Rimage,’ meaning the fruit comes from the same vintage. Such wines are only made in great years. A blend of Grenache Noir and Carignane, this wine is rich and concentrated with leading flavors of dried cherries, blackberry preserve and molasses, followed by bittersweet chocolate and a wisp of brown spices. It’s full bodied, nicely structured and harmonious, ending in a long, luscious finish. Banylus wines are served as dessert wines as well as aperitifs throughout France. This selection could be enjoyed by itself as an after dinner sipper or pair with chocolate-based desserts, pecan pie or caramelized nut tarts. Approximately 500 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Banyuls, Roussillon, France. Other info: foot-pressed, extended maceration, ABV 15.5%, cork enclosure, imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned ...more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: These wines were provided for review. Thoughts are my own.

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