Roussillon’s passion and dedication to winemaking goes back centuries. Modern winemaking practices, alongside the preservation of ancestral know-how, allow Roussillon to produce quality wines bursting with character and individuality.
It proudly perpetuates the Mediterranean tradition of Vins Doux Naturels (fortified sweet wines) production, which dates back to the Middle Ages. The region supplies 80% of France’s VDNs with AOP-certified Maury Doux, Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru, Muscat de Rivesaltes and Rivesaltes. The UK is the top importer of Roussillon’s AOP Vins Doux Naturels by volume.
Roussillon producers cultivate no less than 24 grape varieties, many originating from the region. Indigenous grape varieties are prevalent in Roussillon and responsible for the originality and diversity of its wines. Roussillon is one of the places in the world with the largest stock of old vines.
Among the main red varietals are black Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, black Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Key white varietals include white and grey Grenache, Maccabeu, white Carignan, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Vermentino, Muscat à petits grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie.
Roussillon is a viticultural paradise and its winemakers know it. Vines enjoy near perfect growing conditions which eliminate the need for intervention in the vineyard. Roussillon’s producers are committed to preserving the environment and caring for the land in the most natural way.
It is no coincidence that Roussillon is one of France’s most committed region in terms of organic viticulture and biodynamic practices. As part of a continuous upward trend, 25% of all Roussillon vineyards are now already certified organic.
Varied geological structures and micro-climates are distinctive Roussillon characteristics, which means there is terrain to suit and maximize the characters of every grape varietal. While soils are predominantly clay/limestone, shist and «gravelly», some specific terroirs were recognized a distinctive AOP certification, i.e. Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany from gneiss and granite terrain, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France from terrain containing a dominance of grey schist, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde from sands of gneiss and granite and Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel from a limestone-dominant terrain. The Crus from Côtes du Roussillon les Aspres are from gravel or small pebble soils with yellow clay as a liant. The Crus of Collioure and Banyuls are born from vines planted on very narrow terraces, often directly on to the parent Cambrian grey schist rock and on to poor, acid soils. The Maury terroir sits mainly on Aptian, non-metamorphic black schist at the heart of the Agly Valley.
The quality of Roussillon’s dry still wines is reflected in no less than 9 AOPs and 2 IGPs. The production of reds is predominant, followed by rosés and whites. Dry wines from the Roussillon are full of personality and originality thanks to the use of an array of flagship varietals such as Syrah, black, white and grey Grenache and Carignan, Mourvèdre, Lledoner Pelut, Maccabeu, Malvoisie or Tourbat du Roussillon, small grapes Muscat and Alexandria Muscat. On a regional basis, they represent 66% of the vineyard area, 79% of the total wine production and 20% of exports worldwide.
These fortified sweet wines are highly characteristic of Roussillon and account for 80% of France’s total VDN production. Only a handful of varietals are used; Grenaches, Maccabeu, Malvoisie or Tourbat du Roussillon, small grapes Muscat and Alexandria Muscat. Their colour ranges from garnet, white to rosé and older wines develop characteristic warm, amber or tawny hues. They originated in the 13th century after Arnau de Vilanova, a physician at the court of the Mallorca kings in Perpignan, pioneered the process of ‘mutage’.