A part of Languedoc-Roussillon—France’s largest wine-producing region—Roussillon is located within the southern Pyrénées-
Orientales department, adjacent to Northern Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. Although the AOPs of the Languedoc—especially Corbières, Minervois and Côteaux du Languedoc—have typically garnered more attention and renown in years past, now is the time to turn your atttention to this exciting, high-quality region.
A small, unique area, Roussillon boasts ideal conditions for grape growing. It’s shaped like an amphitheater, and is open to the Mediterranean Sea on the east and three mountain ranges—the Corbières, the Pyrenees and Albères—to the north, west and south, respectively. The landscape is varied and the climate sunny, with three rivers that travel through the region, helping define the topography and characterize the terroir.
Roussillon produces 90% of all AOP-certified vins doux naturels, and they do it well, with a long history of production. But that does not mean the table wines should be overlooked, and, in fact, the 2011 vintage is proving to be an exemplary one, resulting in wines of excellent ripeness, superb structure, ample acidity and the potential to age gracefully.
There aren’t many AOPs within the region, with the most popular being Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages. There are subzones within those areas, including Les Aspres within Côtes du Roussillon and Caramany, Latour de France, Lesquerde and Tautavel within Côtes du Roussillon Villages. The only other AOPs are Collioure and Maury Sec.
The wines are typically blended, although not necessarily, and favor Mediterranean grapes like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault, among others. They often exhibit notes of ripe black fruit, savory herbs and potentially oak-influenced notes of toast, mocha or sweet spice. The best thing of all, though, is since they still fly under the radar on retail shelves, they are competitvely priced and represent amazing values.
Although Roussillon takes center stage in this issue’s Buying Guide, we also give a nod to France’s other wine-producing regions, including Burgundy and Alsace. Elsewhere in Europe, we also review the latest crop of Amarones, 2011 vintage Ports and new releases from Spain and Austria. From the New World, check out reviews of wines from Argentina, plus hundreds of wines from California, Washington and Virginia.
93 Gérard Bertrand 2011 Tautavel Hommage aux Vignerons (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). This is a dense, concentrated and expressive wine, although it’s still young and promises more beauty and elegance with age. Aromas of African violets and cocoa nibs marry harmoniously with the fleshy black-fruit core. Jammy, ripe plum and cherry flavors lead the lush and slightly creamy palate, transitioning into notes of roasted coffee and chocolate, and finally ending on a sweet toasted-oak and baking-spice accent. It’s richly delicious now, but patience will also be rewarded; try after 2016. Gerard Bertrand USA. Editors’ Choice. —L.B.
abv: 15% Price: $35
91 Château Avernus 2005 Tautavel (Côtes du Roussillon). This blend of 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre is not showing its true age. Sure, it boasts some developed notes of charcuterie, balsamic herb and garrigue, but it’s also still brimming with full, ripe black-fruit notes of plum and berry. With a crushed velvet texture, gripping tannins and a long, heady finish that’s laced with hints of espresso and vanilla, this shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Enjoy now, or try after 2016. Hand Picked Selections. —L.B.
abv: 14% Price: $39
91 Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Tautavel Grenache-Syrah-Carignan (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). This is an immediately attractive and approachable wine, with direct and intense aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum and boysenberry accented by notes of sweet smoke, mocha and pepper. Firm yet approachable, this is well-balanced with structured tannins and ample acidity. Drink from 2015-2018. Gerard Bertrand USA. Editors’ Choice. —L.B.
abv: 14% Price: $20
91 Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau 2009 Silex (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). Crushed purple-violet aromas mingle with a blend of black berry and cherry notes, all dusted with a sprinkle of cocoa powder and baking spice. The mouthfeel is full and round, with firm, tightly structured tannins and an evolving, spice-driven finish. Hand Picked Selections. —L.B.
abv: 15% Price: $44
90 Gérard Bertrand 2010 Grand Terroir Tautavel Grenache-Syrah-Carignan (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). Pressed purple flower, brambly blackberry, boysenberry and black cherry flesh take center stage on this rich, decadent wine. Nuances of oaky spice add depth to the lushly textured palate, with big tannins and a firm, mouthfilling texture that lingers long into the finish. Attractive now, but should also age well through the next three years. Gerard Bertrand USA. —L.B.
abv: 14.5% Price: $19
90 Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau 2009 Les Vingt Marches (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). Dried black raspberry and cherry fruit aromas are accented by hints of forest floor, licorice and sweet spice on the nose of this Syrah, Grenache and Carignan blend. The medium-weight palate offers plum- and cherry-skin flavors, while a peppery spice lingers on the finish alongside a firm tannic grip. Hand Picked Selections. —L.B.
abv: 15% Price: $28
90 Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau 2009 Roc Amour (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel). A rich and dense selection, this offers intense aromas and flavors of black plum, boysenberry and blackberry, layered with notes of milk chocolate, licorice root and baking spice. The texture is full but not overdone, with a firm yet approachable tannins and a lingering finish. Hand Picked Selections. —L.B.
abv: 15% Price: $36