Who doesn’t love wines from France? Although Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy are the better known wine regions of France, there are many others that cultivate unique grapes to deliver spectacular wines. I recently had the opportunity to sample the wines of Roussillon, a wine-producing region in Provence, Southeastern France. From crisp roses to light bodied reds, the quality of the wine is superb.
I love the direct correlation that wine has with travel. The wine regions dictate which varieties of wine do best. As I can imagine myself sipping on sparkling rose in Roussillon, I wanted to know more about the region. That being said, I reached out to an expert and I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Eric Aracil, the Deputy Director and Export Manager for the Roussillon Wine Council.
All About Roussillon Wines: Interview with Eric Aracil
What makes the Côtes du Roussillon region so unique in regard to its wines?
Geography & Climate
Climate: Wines of Roussillon are produced in the sunniest region of France. The sunshine, combined with lots of winds provide an ideal climate that allows for growing healthy vines. Climate, diversity of vines, ambivalence between sea and mountain are geographic factors which influence the flavor profile of the wines of Roussillon. 80% of vineyards in Roussillon are on slopes.
The diversity of terroirs/microterroirs, including soils and subsoils of Roussillon are unique in the world. Finding such a diversity of soils in such a small/concentrated area is very rare. It produces a wide range of wines, including nearly all styles (dry reds, whites, roses, fortified sweet wines, some sparkling).
Practices: Roussillon producers work in artisanal ways and Roussillon is the first producer in organic and biodynamic viticulture in France
Diversity of grapes and appellations: 24 different grape varietals allowed, including 17 dedicated to appellations
Terroir expression Expression of terroir is very clear in the wines, thanks to fact that Roussillon has the smallest yield (<30hl/hectare) in France and perhaps one of the smallest in the world, which allows a full expression of the terroirs through all of their parameters (soil and subsoil come through as Roussillon uses very old vines that dig very deep)
I assume it’s hard to play favorites with the wines of your region, but which ones do you recommend the most?
Too difficult to play favorites, because I love everything! If I may answer differently, I would say wines of Roussillon are very attractive because you can find in each category of wine a wide range between light to concentrated products, always with a wonderful drinkability and a pleasure to discover. The tagline “Infinitely Roussillon” is a reality: there are no limits in terms of what you can find and discover in Roussillon’s wines.
- White wines: I appreciate the white wines for the floral notes, the minerality, the wonderful fruitiness and a rare complexity with always a wonderful freshness coming from the terroirs and/or from the grape varieties. You can find in them some wonderful personalities from unique grape varieties (Gray Grenache/White Grenache/Muscat etc.).
- Rosés: For the rose wines, we can discover some very easy and light roses (for summertime sipping), but also more complex and concentrated roses, which are not limited to one season, but can be very pleasant to drink all-year.
- Red wines: For the reds, drinkability and harmony are two common points. The time of over-ripeness/overextraction/over-oak has been over for a long time. Reds from Roussillon always bring you directly to the vineyards and highlight each of their unique features.
- Fortified Sweet Wines are real gems: their tradition is over 8 centuries old and producers who make them always respect the fruit and terroir. Non-oxidative fortified sweet wines allow us to taste freshness and youth. Thanks to producers’ know-how to correctly manage oxidation, we can also find on the market some beautiful treasures with sometimes some very old vintages that hold for a long time (you can still find some on the market from 1875). Those wines are completely unique in the world and we are very proud of them, because Roussillon is the birthplace of fortification and is still today a cradle for fortified sweet wines, both in France and in the world.
I had the pleasure of sampling several of the Côtes du Roussillon wines. One that I still think about is the Domaine Lafage La Grande Cuvée Rosé! Do you have any pairing suggestions for this wine?
If I remember well, the wine is fresh and displays citrus fruits, small red fruits, minerality and complexity with a long finish. With these things in mind, we can either propose something simple or more complex. Here are some examples of the many flavors you can enjoy with this wine: caprese salad (tomato/mozzarella), pasta with seafood, chilled soups, fish crudo or tartar, scallops or clams/shrimp/octopus sautéed or in a salad, roasted white meats like turkey or goose, asparagus risotto, sautéed vegetables (wok), thai food, maki/sushi, goat cheeses or fresh sheep’s cheeses, fish stew/soup.
If a traveler wants to explore Côtes du Roussillon, what are your recommendations on what to see, where to eat, and vineyards to visit?
The Roussillon tourism board features “Tourism de Terroir” offering oenotourism, which can advise visitors on what to see according to their desires – they can visit this website for information. There are so many things to see and do in Roussillon, that recommendation will really depend on the angle of the trip or the interests of the visitors (religious tourism, natural sites, roman arts, gastronomy, seaside or mountain activities etc.)
You’ve been in the wine industry most of your life, what do you enjoy the most about your profession?
Meeting people who are just as passionate as me, as the world of wine is unique and quite small, but brings a lot of wealth through sharing and meetings. And to share my passion of the wines and of our culture.