Roussillon in London
There was a large tasting of Roussillon wines in London last month, representing some 18 producers, and far more wines than could possibly be tasted in a day. And certainly, far more than would make for interesting tasting notes, and indeed by the end of the day, legible tasting notes. Most, but not all of the estates were familiar to me, with some old favourites. In some instances, the wine grower had come from Roussillon, and for the others the UK importer was pouring the wines.
First of all, I would like to enthuse about a new discovery. The wines of Res Fortes made by Moritz Bak who is half Dutch and half German. He trained at Plumpton and worked round the world, in California, Hawke’s Bay and Germany before settling in Roussillon. His first experience was working for D66 with Dave Phinney and 2018 he bought vines in St Paul de Fenouillet at the cooler end of the Agly valley. I liked these wines a lot, though some of the prices especially for Traveller and Brave were quite ambitious.
2019 Res Fortes Côtes du Roussillon Blanc - RRP - £16.00
60% Macabeo, and 20% each of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc.
Quite firm salty fruit on nose and plate. A good balance of fruit and acidity. Elegant and fresh.
2021 Côtes du Roussillon Rosé – RRP £16.00
A blend of 50% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 20% Grenache Gris. Pressurage direct. With the three varieties co-fermented, with 5-10% fermented in old wood, and all the rest in stainless steel tanks. Lightly rounded ripe fruit with some acidity. Nicely balanced.
2019 Res Fortes Red, Côtes du Roussillon – RRP £18.00
60% Grenache Noir 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah. Half the Grenache is kept in old wood. Medium colour. Rounded spicy nose and palate. Quite a juicy palate, with some acidity as well as tannin. Medium weight.
2019 Traveller - £36.00
Mainly Syrah. The 2019 vintage is Côtes du Roussillon, but subsequent vintages are Côtes Catalanes. Good colour. Good varietal character. Quite a firm palate, quite dense. Tannin and youthful with good potential. A rounded finish.
2017 Brave, Côtes du Roussillon - £90.00
Mainly Grenache Noir, from a single vineyard of 120 year old vines. And one of the highest and steepest in Maury. Only made in the best years. Aged in four year old barrels for 18 months. This is beginning to gently evolve, with some ripe supple fruit, but less opulent than some Grenache, and with an appealingly fresh note of acidity.
And now I am going to highlight one wine from each estate, whose wines I tasted.
Domaine des Soulanes
This is one of my favourite Roussillon estates, partly because I was lucky enough to be able to use their gîte in the middle of the vineyards while I was researching my book on Roussillon. Daniel Lafitte makes some wonderful white wines, from old vines. However, new to me was 2021 Patchwork, Côtes Catalanes, a blend of 80% Carignan and 20% Grenache Noir. It comes from several different plots and is not made very year. The essence is freshness, with fruit, and a streak of acidity as well as tannin.
Domaine Lafage is one of the larger estates of Roussillon, and also very innovative. Jean-Marc is converting to organic viticulture and has planted Souvignier Gris, one of the new resistant grape varieties, as a test plot. Saint Roch Vieux Figuier Blanc is a blend of Souvignier Gris with Grenache Gris. It is very firm and very tight, very linear and very fresh, with an acidity that you would not expect in Roussillon. Very intriguing.
Domaine Singla was new to me. This is a large estate with vineyards near Rivesaltes and the coast. There were several different cuvées of red wines, all made in much the same way, but from specific vineyards, with slight variations of blends, based on Syrah, Grenache Noir and possibly Mourvèdre. 2019 Bressol, a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, was rounded and textured with ripe fleshy fruit. It reaches 15°but does not taste so high.
Jonathan Hesford had come to London for the occasion. 2020 One Block Muscat, Côtes Catalanes, was freshly Muscaty, but not too overpowering and 2018 Le Rescapé is a pure Carignan, with easy fruit and a streak of tannin, making a perfect summer red.
Olivier Saperas was pouring the wines from Domaine Vial-Magnères in Banyuls. He taught me his father’s expression about swallowing a wine at a tasting – you spit behind the tie, or in a woman’s case, would that be behind the pearls? There were several of his wines that I would happily have spat behind my pearls, if I were wearing them! 2019 Armenn Blanc Collioure is a blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, with 5 % of other varieties, a really eclectic mix including Vermentino, both Muscat à petits grains and d’Alexandrie, Torbat, Marsanne, Roussanne, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng. I loved the texture of this wine, it is nicely rounded in the mouth with good balancing acidity, a satisfying mouthfeel with salty notes on the finish. The vineyards are close to the sea.
William Jonquères d’Oriola is the 27th generation of his family at Château de Corneilla and his father Philippe was one of the pioneers of vins secs when most of Roussillon was still producing lots of vins doux. 2019 Cavalcade, a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre is a Côtes du Roussillon les Aspres, and a lovely example of the fruity spiciness of Roussillon. The wine is ripe and juicy, rounded. White Cavalcade is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino, with fresh pithy fruit and good mouthfeel.
I had met Thomas Mangin of Les Terrasses de l’Arago on zoom last year, so it was very sympa to meet him in person. 2020 Elecció Blanc, Côtes du Roussillon, is a blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, with elegant fresh herbal fruit on the nose and palate. Elecció is made in all three colours and then there is a pure Carignan, Les Espassoles, and l’Heritage des Terrasses, a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Thomas was also pouring the wines of Domaine de l’Edre who are also in the village of Vingrau. 2020 L’Edre Carrément Rouge, Côtes du Roussillon Tautavel, was ripe, spicy and concentrated.
Mark Walford was pouring the wines of his estate, Domaine Soula. 2015 Soula Blanc is a blend of 49 % Sauvignon – Le Soula is up in the hills beyond St Paul de Fenouillet, with some of the coolest vineyards of the area, where Sauvignon will perform well - with 23% Rolle or Vermentino, 14% Grenache Blanc, 12% Macabeo and 2% Grenache Gris. It simply did not taste as though it was seven years old, with fresh youthful acidity, and some lovely texture, fruit and satisfying mouthfeel. They were also showing 2015 and 2014 Soula Rouge. The 2015 is a blend of 53% Carignan, 37% Syrah and 10% Grenache Noir with fleshy fruit, supple tannins and some gentle evolution with good length. Soula Rouge 2014 with 37% Carignan, 39% Syrah and 24% Grenache Noir was quite evolved on the nose and with elegant fruit on the palate.
And now for some vins doux.
The shippers, Thorman Hunt, were pouring Domaine Pouderoux from Maury, including 2019 Maury, a pure Grenache Noir. Deep red in colour, with round spicy ripe fruit, with a bite of alcohol on the finish.
At the Mas Bécha table I tasted 2019 Excellence Grenat, a Rivesaltes from Grenache Noir, with rounded ripe spicy cherries and a fresh finish. Charles Perez also makes a serious range of vins secs, but my taste buds were running out of energy by then.
From Domaine Cazes, I treated myself to 2013 Rivesaltes Ambré, from Grenache Blanc alone. The colour is indeed amber, and the flavours were supple and ripe, and seamless with some notes of walnut and orange.
Arnaud de Villeneuve is the cooperative of Rivesaltes and here I tried Rivesaltes Ambré Prestige 2002, a blend of 60% Grenache Blanc, 10% Grenache Gris and 30% Macabeo. It was nicely concentrated with some honey and good length and depth.
Château Nadal Hainault were showing both vins sec and vins doux, so I opted for a 2001Rivesaltes Tuilé, a pure Grenache Noir, which was tawny in colour, with ripe soft fruit. Medium weight with a bite on the finish.
And the final bonne bouche of the tasting came from Dom Brial, the cooperative in the village of Baixas, who make a bit of a speciality of their aged vintage Rivesaltes. 1969 Rivesaltes Grande Reserve Ambré is a blend of 40% each of Macabeo and Grenache Blanc with 20% Grenache Gris. It was elegantly nutty and smooth on the palate, and by now I was running out of adjectives, and energy. So I sipped and went home.......