Maury Magic – Wineries to Visit on Your Next Trip to Roussillon, France

If you are lucky enough to be headed to the Roussillon wine region in the South of France, and decide to visit the historic Maury wine region, consider some of these innovative wine brands. While visiting there in May of 2019, I was treated to a tasting of Maury wines with ten producers, each presenting three wines. The tasting, followed by a delicious lunch was held at Department 66 (D66) Winery in Maury. This domaine was started by Dave Phinney from Napa Valley who visited the Maury region and fell in love with the terroir. Therefore, he started the winery, and also allows others to craft their wine there as well.

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Maury Wine Lunch at Cellar D66 in Roussillon, France

Tasting of Maury Wines from Ten Innovative Producers

Following is a listing of the ten wineries as well as a highlighted wine from each producer that was truly unique and compelling to taste:

  • D66 started by Dave Phinney from Napa Valley- creator of The Prisoner. The wines were poured by Richard Case of Domaine La Pertuisane, who also makes his wines at D66. The highlight wine of D66 was the 2017 Fragile rose, a blend of Grenache Noir with small percentages of Syrah and Carignan. Delicious with floral nose and palate of juicy watermelon.
  • Domaine La Pertuisane represented by Richard Case. Unique labels with cartoons. Wine highlight was 2016 Green Eggs & VIN from a single old vineyard that was a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Mourvèdre and Alicante. Therefore, blend of white and red grapes, vines estimated to be 70 to 80 years old. Aromatic nose with mixed berries, minerality, complexity and a very long finish.
  • Domaine Thunevin-Calvet represented by John Roger Calvet. A partnership with John Luc Thunevin from Bordeaux. Wines were all fresh and elegant with well integrated oak. Highlight was 2018 L’amourette Blanc – 100% Grenache Gris, fresh with citrus, minerality, complexity, and juicy acidity.
  • Domaine de Lavail Winery represented by Nicholas Battle. Highlight was 2018 Ballade made from 100% old vine white Carignan. Quite unique with floral nose, textured palate, and long lively finish.
  • Domaine Clos de Rey represented by Julien Montagné, who won the award for the most passionate winemaker at the tasting, as he showed everyone his vineyards from an IPad and waxed poetic about the wines. His enthusiasm was contagious and all of the wines tasted fabulous. The highlight was 2017 L’Epistaca, which was a single vineyard 100% old vine Grenache. Lightly colored, medium bodied, elegant with bright berry nose followed by raspberry and lavender on the palate.
  • SCV Les Vignerons de Maury were represented by Thierry Cazach. The highlight was a 2006 Maury VDN, which was Carmel in color, oxidized, and very delicious with dried apricot, orange rind, viscous body, and very long sweet finish.
  • Domaine does Soulanes represented by Daniel Lafitte. Highlight was 2017 Sarrat del Mas a blend of Grenache Noir, Carignan and Syrah. Classic style of mixed berries, earth, tar, and structured tannins.  Great food wine. Biologique.
  • Domaine Pouderox represented by Robert Pouderoux. Highlight was 2012 LaMouraine, a blend of 60% Grenache Noir and 40%Syrah. Fermented in foudre. Black berries, tar, earth, structured tannins, with a cleaning acid. All of his wines had big tannins, lots of texture and complexity — wines with personality.
  • Domaine Grier represented by Jeff Grier. Highlight was 2018 Grenache Noir which was perfumed with floral and raspberry, no oak, very pure expression – quite lovely and delightful. Made from 45 year old vines.
  • Domaine of the Bee represented by Justin Howard-Sneyd. Highlight was the 2017 Les Genoux, which means “the Knees,” for the saying “the bee’s knees.” This winery focuses on the beauty of bees, how important they are to nature, and seals all of its bottles with natural bees wax, creating a lovely design. Les Genoux is a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan Noir from 100 year old bush vines in a field blend. It entrances with a milk cherry nose, minerality, and a soft approach on the palate; and then surprises with a touch of salty honey and a cleansing astringent finish.

Novel Wine Lunch at Cellar D66

After the tasting we were treated to a fabulous three course lunch in the cellars of D66.  A long white table with fresh local flowers was set for the more than 30 MWs and vintners in attendance. All of the wines at the tasting, plus a few new ones, were available to pair with the cuisine. The first course was salmon and cucumber with dill on toast, which matched many of the crisp white and rose wines quite well.  The main course was a savory short rib and mashed potato that was the perfect match for all of the structured and earthy reds comprised primarily from syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache noir, and Carignan. Dessert was a delectable chocolate tart with a single red cherry from Ceret.  This was delightful with the numerous sweet Maurys and VDNs available. A highlight was a bottle of 1999 Maury produced by Domaine Lavail. A truly memorable luncheon and tasting.

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Sweet Maury Dessert Wine with Chocolate Tart

Five Famous Wineries to Visit in Roussillon

In May of 2019, I was fortunate enough to tour the Roussillon wine region for five days and taste more than 100 different wine brands. Though Roussillon is most famous for its Grenache grapes (see below), it is also well-known for Muscat, Syrah, Carignan, and produces at least 20 other varietals. Altogether Roussillon has over 420 wineries and 29 cooperatives.

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Beautiful Hillside Vineyards by the Sea in Roussillon

The Four Colors of Roussillon Grenache

It is worth taking a minute to describe the four different colors/flavors of Grenache in Roussillon, because this is their signature grape. These descriptions were provided by Eric Aracil, Deputy Director of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon, who explained this while we were standing in a vineyard examining the various types of Grenache:

  • Grenache Blanc brings floral, pear, sometimes peach, and a touch of green dill to the wine.
  • Grenache Gris provides a twist of citrus, gunpowder, and structure.
  • Grenache Noir is known for its fresh, fruity raspberry, cherry, and plum notes.
  • Blue Grenache (also known as hairy Grenache because the leaves are hairy underneath) has blue red grapes and provides structure, fig, guava and a touch of iron or blood notes.
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Exploring Old Vine Grenache Vineyards in Roussillon

Five Famous Roussillon Wineries

Domaine Gauby – Located in the tiny town of Calce, Domaine Gauby is a truly authentic expression of Roussillon soil.  Using biodynamic principles of farming and winemaking, Gerard Gauby is passionate about the land and expressing the true terroir and vintage variations. He took us on a walk through the old vineyards, of which he owns 40 hectares, including some 90 year old Grenache vines. It was a beautiful spring morning, with many wildflowers between the vines and wild birds overhead. Afterwards we tasted numerous wines and had a delicious lunch in the modest cellars. I was especially impressed with the vibrancy of his white wines, with a zesty energy and pure mineral streak running through the wines. Two of my favorites were: 2018 Jasse Orange Wine – a dry Muscat, with apricot, lemon, and minerality – absolutely delicious! 2018 Calcinaires Blanc – fresh, zesty, textured, made from a blend of Vermentino, Chardonnay, and Grenache Blanc.

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Tasting in the Cellars of Domaine Gauby

Mas Amiel Winery – this is one winery that no wine lover should miss. Located in the Maury wine region of Roussillon, I was blown away by the field of VND wines aging in demi-johns (called bon bons) in the bright sun. They leave them there for one year, before moving back into the 130 old cellars to age in giant wooden foudres for anywhere from 10 to 40 years in an oxidative fashion. Truly amazing! We were told that the VDN’s (Vin Doux Natural) are made from 70% Grenache as the flesh, with some Carignan as the Skeleton and Syrah as the Muscles – an intriguing analogy. The winery itself has a modern tasting room and design, with older outbuildings. Altogether they have 145 hectares of vines, produce 35,000 cases annually and are certified organic, moving towards biodynamic. We tasted 12 wines here (both dry and sweet), and the highlights for me were: 2016 MA Sec Legende Maury made from 80% Grenache Noir and 20% Carignan with the grapes coming from a 1949 vineyard; and notes of fresh raspberry jam with a textured palate. The MA Maury 40 Year Fortified – made from 100% Grenache and fortified to 16%, this wine started with a floral lifted nose, then enticed with dried orange peel, spice, caramel, and a long elegant finish.

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Magnificent Field of Sweet VDN Wine Aging in the Sun

Lafage Winery – Started by Jean-Marc Lafage, who grew up in the region, but traveled around the world to work in other wineries until he realized that Roussillon was the ideal place to establish a winery. Therefore, he returned to build a world class winery and implement his theme of “restless innovation” to create a line of fascinating wine brands.  The winery is located very close to the ocean outside the town of Perpignan, so it is easy to find. Altogether they have 200 hectares of vineyards, are certified sustainable, produce over 2 million bottles per year, and export 75% of their production to 30 countries. Considered to be one of the major wine players in Roussillon, this is an important winery to visit, and we enjoyed the tour of the modern cellars and tasting room. We tasted 10 wines here, and two favorites for me were: Centenaire 2018 White Sec – very aromatic, textured, medium-bodied white blend with juicy lemon and white peach, long and lovely. Domaine Lafage Miraille 2016 – made with Grenache and Mourvèdre, this wine had a lifted violet nose, mixed black fruit, velvety tannins, good concentration, a hint of anise and earth; rich, long and warm to the finish.

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Modern Cellars of Lafage Winery in Roussillon

Domaine Cazes – established in 1895, I was delighted by the Mediterranean design of this winery with stucco walls, tiles, flowers, fountains and palm trees. Located near the ocean in the town of Rivesaltes, it boasts a small charming tasting room as well as restaurant, and they have won prizes for wine tourism. Altogether, they have 185 hectares of organic and biodynamic vines, and focus production on 25% sweet wines. Their icon brand is Le Credo – a massive red blend designed to age for years and inspired by the wines of Priorat. The wine actually has its own “throne room” at the winery. The family also owns two other wineries in Roussillon. We tasted seven wines here and highlights for me were: Cap Bear 2018 Grenache Gris – great acidy, zippy, mineral citrus, fresh and lovely; and Aime Cazes 1978 AOP Rivesaltes – a 22 year old sweet tawny with apricot, gingerbread, and lemon peel – yum! Le Credo 2012 – made from old vines circa 1900, this wine was filled with savory notes, black fruit, peppery, earth and anise; massive tannins, textured, long, and concentrated.

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Inner Courtyard of Domaine Cazas Winery

Chateau Valmy – this winery looks like a fairy-tale castle with its big beautiful chateau set high on a hill overlooking the ocean. Located a few miles outside the charming seaside village of Collioure, Chateau Valmy was originally built in 1900, but fell into disrepair and “slept until 1995” when it was resurrected by the new owners. Today they have 25 hectares of vineyards, produce 120,000 bottles and sell 60% direct to consumer. This is because they are a very popular wine tourism location, known for not only their delicious wines and great ocean views, but also for the summer concerts that have been known to attract more than 10,000 people to hear the music of bands such as Santana.  We tasted 8 wines here, and two of my favorites were: Première Rose de Valmy 2017 – fresh strawberries, light and elegant; made from 100% Grenache, Subtils Privilèges de Valmy – a sparkling wine made of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, 9 months aging in bottle, with floral top note and textured pear with lemon finish.

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The Splendid Chateau Valmy Winery in Roussillon. Photo Credit: Xaviateur