Rosemary George MW was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding quality and originality of the white wines of the Roussillon. See her top five to try below...
Roussillon white wines may only account for a small part of the production of the region, but they are truly worth seeking out, for their minerality and depth of flavour.
The backbone variety is again Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, with the real depth of character coming from Grenache Gris, its citrus notes, salinity and minerality. Roussanne, Marsanne and Vermentino were introduced into the region in the 1980s, with Vermentino proving the most successful. Hervé Bizeul of Clos des Fées was inspired by the Vermentino of Corsica, and he also makes a delicious pure Semillon, with distinctive varietal character.
Carignan Blanc is tolerated, but not included in the appellation, even though it performs a useful role, adding structure and acidity. There is also Malvoisie, otherwise known as Torbat, which is declining in importance; and Macabeo, which is more delicate. Generally Roussillon white wines never undergo malolactic fermentation as it is vital to retain acidity, and sometimes they may be fermented and aged in barrel. Lees stirring can enhance flavour, but must be done with care as it can make a wine too fat and heavy.
Roussillon white wine: Five to try
Some oak and white blossom on the nose..
Mainly Grenache Gris with Grenache Blanc and including some centenarian vines.
Mainly Grenache Gris from 1960s vines, with a little Grenache Blanc, Terret and Carignan Blanc.
A classic blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne...
A little oak on the nose and palate, but nicely integrated fruit and fresh acidity.