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Top Roussillon wines: 15 to discover

Although a very warm area known for its fortified wines, southern France’s sprawling Roussillon region can produce dry wines of impressive freshness. Decanter's Natalie Earl reveals which wines from the recent Roussillon tasting should be on your radar.

The Roussillon is home to a range of wine styles, at varying price points. Sweet fortified wines (vin doux naturel) used to dominate production, with still dry wines (vin sec) in the minority.

In the last 30 years, however, this has completely changed, and vin sec now makes up the majority (80%) of the Roussillon’s output.

The recent Wines of Roussillon tasting, held in London, not only highlighted many good quality dry wines being produced, but also cemented the idea that Roussillon whites are worth taking seriously, and revealed a few pink surprises too.

We’ve selected 15 top picks from the tasting, covering whites, rosés,  reds and fortifieds to seek out.

Scroll down for tasting notes and scores for 15 top Roussillon wines from the recent tasting

Straddling the value / premium divide

The list below highlights a selection of wines across various price points, with some offering excellent value for money, great for weekday drinking. While others are pushing into a more premium price bracket.

This is hardly surprising, given how small the yields are. In 2021, for example, the average yields were 28hl/ha. ‘Less than one glass of wine per plant’, says Eric Aracil, co-director and export manager at the CIVR (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon).

It is clear that there is still great value to be found in the Roussillon, however, and it might be that whites are where to look.

Make way for Roussillon whites

White wines are made in just two of the Roussillon’s nine AOPs, which explains why a lot of white Roussillon in fact 72% is labelled as IGP Côtes Catalanes (and a small amount of IGP Côte Vermeille).

The IGPs also allow more flexibility in terms of grape varieties. Producers wanting to shine a light on a single grape variety, like Grenache Blanc or Gris, must label the wine as IGP.

Wines of Roussillon’s recent figures show that 17% of dry wine production in the Roussillon is now is white.

‘What is important for me is that this percentage is increasing each year, in a crazy way, but it is the reality’, said Aracil, ’20 years ago, it was 2%.’

Aracil said that it is consumer demand driving this increase in production of white wines. Sales of white Roussillon AOP wines (Côtes du Roussillon and Collioure) have increased 14% over the last five years. (Source: CIVR).

‘We have some very fresh, crisp, pleasant white wines which are completely unexpected, and which are completely different from classic Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Mainly thanks to Grenache’, said Aracil. ‘Even in a very warm area, thanks to the terroir, the know how, and the technology, we can have some wonderful white wines.’

Domaine Treloar’s dry, orangey and saline One Block Muscat is a must-try and a steal, retailing under £15 in the UK.

Le Soula’s Blanc 2015 is a superb example of the complexity and ageability of Roussillon whites.

Room for Roussillon rosé?

While the focus at the recent tasting was clearly on dry whites and reds, some may be surprised to learn that 26% of Roussillon’s dry wine production is in fact rosé.

But, as Aracil says, this rosé is mostly consumed in Roussillon itself, during the region’s long, hot summer. So there is not a huge amount on the export market.

The small number of rosés on show at the tasting, however, showed promise. Flavour characters tended towards herbal, mineral and citrusy, as opposed to overtly sweet and strawberry-led.

Domaine des Soulane’s 2021 rosé, a blend of Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, is dry and full of tangy citrus and cranberry notes.

While the cooperative Arnaud de Villeneuve’s Stellaire rosé 2021 has a savoury, herbal edge to the fresh grapefruit notes.

A range of reds

There’s no doubt that the hot and sunny Roussillon climate produces some intense, high alcohol wines. In the past, heavy oak use could dominate. But good examples of this style do exist. Take Domaine Singla’s Passe Temps 2020, which manages to balance the alcohol with deliciously plummy, seductive fruit.

There are also some lighter-bodied reds to be found, such as Domaine Lafage’s La Rétro, which is designed to be a juicy, easy-drinking red – it even comes in a litre-bottle.

Don’t overlook vin doux naturel

Production levels of vin doux naturel wines may have tanked in recent years due to decreased demand, but the Roussillon still knows what it’s doing when it comes to fortified wines. They offer next level complexity found in very few wine regions worldwide.

The Dom Brial Grande Réserve Rivesaltes Ambré 1969 is incredibly complex, with flavours ranging from dark chocolate, nuts and orange to mahogany and pine resin.

While this particular wine retails just under £100 and therefore may not be an everyday drinking wine, there are other fortifieds that offer great value in the Banyuls and Maury appellations.

15 top Roussillon wines from the recent tasting

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Roussillon red wines: panel tasting results

Great value wines from Occitanie

Anson: Are these rare grapes the future of Roussillon?

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