Wine Region Roussillon
The territory of Roussillon corresponds to the département Pyrénées-Orientales. Together with Languedoc, which borders it in the west, it forms the largest wine-growing region in France, also known as the Pays d'Oc. The area has been famous since the Middle Ages as the home of the Vins Doux Naturels, including Maury Doux, Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru and Muscat de Rivesaltes.
Sun, sea and wind - the climate of Roussillon
From the Rhône delta to the Spanish border, the coast of the Mediterranean Sea describes a semicircle. Because of this shape and the mountain slopes rising from the shore to the hinterland, it is often called the "amphithéâtre des vins". Here the sun shines almost 2,600 hours a year (in comparison: with a good 2,000 hours of sunshine annually, Baden is one of the sunniest regions in Central Europe). Seven winds, including the cold Tramontana from the Pyrenees and the Cers from the north, also known as Narbonnais, cause evaporation after short, mostly torrential thunderstorms and summer cooling of the heated vineyards. Dry, hot summers, mild winters, rainy periods in the transitional periods and steady winds: nowhere else on the shores of the Mediterranean can you find better climatic conditions for viticulture than in Roussillon.
Varied, permeable soils
With the Corbières in the north and the Pyrenees or their foothills in the south and west, three mountain ranges border the Roussillon.
The vineyards are mainly oriented towards the southeast and east towards the Mediterranean. Only traces of the mineral-rich clay layers washed up during the last ice age are still present on the surface. In the flatter coastal regions, deeper clayey layers provide a reservoir of moisture that promotes rapid vine growth. The vines at higher altitudes have a harder time of it, where a permeable, sandy structure allows water to seep away to great depths. The high quality of the grapes used to produce Vin Doux Naturel in particular is due to the correspondingly low yields; in addition, there is geological diversity: besides clay and sand, deposits of slate, marble, quartz, limestone, pebbles and gneiss can be found.
The styles of Roussillon wines
The Grande Nation loves its Roussillon: Around 90 percent of the AOC sweet wines consumed in France come from the Eastern Pyrenees; well over half of the regional vines are developed into Vins Doux Naturels (VDN). The restructuring of wine production in the Pays d'Oc, which began around 1980, also gave the winegrowers of Roussillon the courage to strive for higher quality: excellent Vins Doux Naturels such as Banyuls, Muscat and Rivesaltes are still among the trademarks of the region. At the same time, the mass production of their cheaper varieties is increasingly giving way to the production of high-quality dry wines. In the 13 AOCs of the département, 15 different grape varieties are permitted for vinification.
White grape varieties in Roussillon
To be used for dry wines:
Both dry white wine and Vin Doux Naturel are permitted:
Red grape varieties in Roussillon
To dry red wines are matured in Roussillon:
The only red grape variety also approved for VDN:
Interesting facts about Roussillon
What is the origin story of VDN in Roussillon?
The birth of Vin Doux Naturel, or so legend has it, took place in the Middle Ages, during an experiment carried out by the Catalan doctor and pharmacist Arnaldus de Villanova in 1285. He is said to have looked for a way to make wine more durable so that the Knights Templar could take it with them on their crusades. His discovery: the "mutage", that is, the addition of alcohol (later also sulfur dioxide), which stops the fermentation and preserves the residual sugar content. Shortly after their creation, the sweet wines from Roussillon, then part of Catalonia, were a big seller.
How is VDN produced?
"Patience" is the magic word here: First of all, it is important to determine the optimal time for mutage so that the right amount of residual sweetness is preserved in the wine. Depending on the desired type and quality, the sweet wines then rest for a long time - sometimes 20 years or more - in wooden barrels or not completely closed bottles in which the wine can come into contact with air. This process is quicker directly in the sun, if stored in thick-walled glass balloons outdoors. After oxidation, the VDN is bottled for further maturation or assembled with other wines to develop further in the barrel. High-quality Vins Doux Naturels often develop over the course of several decades - and still taste good after 100 years.
What role do IGPs play in Roussillon?
IGP wines (short for "Indication Géographique Protégée", protected geographical indication) are state-approved quality wines. In their production, the winegrowers have more freedom than in the AOP category.
The IGPs of Roussillon include the IGP of Côtes Catalanes, which covers almost all of Roussillon. The municipalities of Banyuls-sur-Mer, Cerbère, Collioure and Port-Vendre form IGP de la Côte Vermeille. The IGP des Pyrénées-Orientales and the IGP des Vins de Pays d'Oc are supra-regional designations of origin that also extend into neighboring wine regions.
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