Roussillon - A Masterclass
The wine growers in Roussillon are turning their attention to the UK market and I was asked to conduct a couple of Masterclasses for them. In an ideal world, they would of course have been in London to present their wines themselves, but that was not to be. There were eight wines in each Masterclass, illustrating the diversity and variety of Roussillon. And then a larger tasting, with sommelier service, with everyone seated at individual tables, showing the other wines from each estate.
For me, it was the chance for some new discoveries as well as re-acquaintance with familiar estates. The week before the classes, I had several zooms to meet the estates that I had never visited, which only served to make me want to go back to Roussillon as soon as possible……
The first class began with:
2015 Domaine de Vénus, l’Effrontée, Côtes du Roussillon Blanc
Recommended retail price - £16.80
A blend 50% Macabeo, 40% Grenache Blanc, 10% Vermentino. The fermentation begins in stainless steel vats and then the juice is transferred into old 400 litre vats, for a cool fermentation at 17°C with some bâtonnage.
Domaine de Vénus is based in Maury and was developed by a group of friends, one with associations with Bordeaux, and another with Burgundy, with a first vintage in 2003. They began with 7 hectares and now have 33 hectares, in 40 different plots all in the Agly valley between Maury and Caudiès on black schist and hillsides. They have had the same winemaker, Nathalie Abet, since the beginning; she trained in Beaune and Champagne and then came south.
They particularly wanted to show a white wine with some age, to illustrate the ageing potential of the white wines of Roussillon. And this was certainly borne out in the tasting. The oak was still quite noticeable on the nose, but the palate was taut with very good acidity, and a refreshing finish.
Domaine de la Perdrix, Côtes du Roussillon Rosé
RRP - £7.80
A blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache Noir. The Grenache is saigné and the Syrah free run juice. It comes from a 32-hectare estate near the village of Trouillas, owned by André and Virginie Gil. They are quite experimental, and have planted Verdelho, with a first harvest planned for 2021 and they also make a sparking Macabeo.
Their rosé is nicely rounded, with raspberry fruit, with a pale colour and a ripe finish.
2019 Le Vignoble du Monastir, La Providence, Côtes Catalanes
RRP - £15.00
This is an old estate, that has belonged to Marie-Hélène Roig’s family for several generations. When her father died, she decided with her compagnon, Patrick Cervatius that they would keep the best five hectares, to concentrate on wine in bottle and sell off the other vineyards, from which her father had made bulk wine. He had subsequently joined the village cooperative. This wine comes from a small plot of Carignan planted in 1911. It had a slow fermentation, at 18°C as well as four days pre-fermentation maceration.
Good colour; quite a fresh nose with rustic red fruit and a firm finish. Nice balance. And an appealing freshness.
2018 Château de Jau, Jaujau 1er, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
RRP - £15.50
A blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache Noir, aged in barrel for 12 months. Quite a firm nose, with some attractive spice on the palate, cherries and pepper, and nicely balanced with a well-integrated touch of oak.
Château de Jau is a large 100 hectares estate, in one large plot, between the villages of Cases- de-Pène and Estagel and has belonged to the Dauré family since the 1970. It is now run by Simon Dauré. They make an extensive range of wines, with numerous different brands. However, when Simon’s father bought the property, it was only producing Vin Doux Naturel; they now makes Muscat de Rivesaltes from just half a hectare of Muscat. Such has been the change of emphasis in Roussillon.
2018 Domaine Madeloc, Collioure, Serral – RRP £12.91
A blend of 60% Grenache Noir, 30% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah, grown on the schist terraces of Collioure. Serral means coteau, or hillside in Catalan. The wine is fermented vat and then given 18 months élevage, 70% in vat and 30% in old wood, with the barrel ageing giving some structure to the Syrah and Mourvèdre. The flavours are rounded and spicy with an elegant finish.
Domaine Madeloc is the wine estate of Pierre Gaillard of Côte Rôtie fame, and he also has an estate in Faugères, Domaine Cottebrune. A chance meeting with Marc Parcé of Domaine de la Rectorie who told him about a vineyard for sale, that was owned by an elderly lady and pretty much abandoned. There were 17 hectares of wines in 20 plots, both by the sea and at altitude. The estate is run by Pierre’s daughter, Elise, who is happily settled in Banyuls.
And now on to Vin Doux Naturel.
2020 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Dom Brial
RRP - £9.99
A blend of half and half Muscat à petits grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie. The wine is light in colour and fresh, grapey and honeyed. Everything that good Muscat should be. The cooperative of Baixas has a reputation for its Muscat, and is an important producer of Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes. They also make a second wine, with some ageing, Château les Pins, which shows that Muscat can age surprisingly well.
2002 Domaine F. Jaubert, Rivesaltes Ambré Or du Temps
RRP - £27.00
A blend of 70% Grenache Gris and 30% Grenache Blanc. Aged in a vat that is only 70% full. The wine was made by François Jaubert’s father and is bottled on demand. It won the Top 100 sweet wine trophy this year and is quite delicious, with sweet honeyed fruit, with notes of biscotti di Prato, not unlike Vin Santo, and with a similar bite on the finish.
This is a new estate, in that François Jaubert’s father retired in 2018 and so François took over the family estate, having had what he termed as ‘several lives'§, doing all sorts of other things. He has 31 hectares; with the best vineyards, he is working on developing wine in bottle, while the remaining grapes go to the village cooperative.
2009 Domaine Vial-Magnères, Banyuls Grand Cru Tradition
RRP - £40.00
This is pure Grenache Noir that has spent ten years in oak, with some lovely ripe spicy fruit. The appellation of grand cru for Banyuls was created in 1962 and should comprise a minimum of three years ageing, without any oxidation apart from the gentle effect ageing in barrel. However, the concept of a grand cru for Banyuls has critics. It should only be made in the best years and from the best plots. Elsewhere grand cru means site selection rather than a difference in winemaking.
Domaine Vial Saperas is one of the leading producers of Banyuls and Collioure, with cellars in the middle of Banyuls. Olivier Saperas’s father, Bernard, was one of the first to make white Banyuls, for the simple reason that he had so much Grenache Blanc in his vineyards.