The Land of Limoux: It’s Not Just for Sparklers Anymore

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The Languedoc-based Limoux region claims the distinction of being the first to produce a sparkling wine back in 1531. In fact, famed monk Dom Perignon is credited with visiting the area and bringing back the knowledge to Champagne. Unfortunately for Limoux, the Champenoise have been more assertive in their public relations campaign over the past several centuries, which is why Méthode Champenoise is much more familiar to the average consumer than Limoux’s Méthode Ancestrale.

However, despite Champagne’s better brand recognition, Limoux is now dialing up the volume on its message to market its wines. In this regard, a rooftop tasting held this month provided an opportunity to renew old acquaintances and make new friends.

The event kicked off with Limoux’s bubbles. For centuries, it was the Blanquette de Limoux and its Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale that dominated local production. These two wines earned appellation status in 1938 and harness the Mauzac grape’s floral and apple aromas. The Méthode Ancestrale wines undergo only partial fermentation and thus retain some sweetness on the palate.

Much more recently (1990s), the region added a Crémant de Limoux to its sparkling line up, which favors Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc over the indigenous Mauzac and requires a minimum of nine months of lees aging. In spite of its late arrival to the scene, this newer sparkler accounts for 40% of sparkling wine production in Limoux.

Priced below $20.00, the Limoux sparklers offer up great value for every day drinking with several different styles from which to choose, including drier, sweeter and rosé options.

Even more au courant, Limoux has diversified its portfolio with still whites and reds. While the whites focus on oaked versions of the same varieties as those employed for sparkling wines, the reds (which must include at least three different grapes) bring together an unusual mix of Bordeaux (Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon) and the Rhone Valley (Syrah and Grenache). The still wines are a relatively small percentage of total production and are priced accordingly.

TASTING NOTES

Delmas Blanquette de Limoux Cuvée Memoire Brut Nature 2010, $16.00
This wine is vinified in old oak barrels and sees 8 months of aging on the lees, with fresh citrus and apple aromas and flavors.

Saint Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut 2014, $13.00
Thanks to a chance discovery many years ago, St. Hilaire was our house sparkler for a long time, providing us with affordable bubbles on a regular basis. Notes of Apple and apple peel greet the nose; fresh and lively with medium+ length on the palate.

Côté Mas Crémant de Limoux Rosé NV, $15.00
This wine spends 12 months on the lees, showing aromas of berries and herbs. It is dry, yet slightly fruity and slightly yeasty on the palate with long length.

Antech Crémant de Limoux ‘Heritage 1860’ 2013, $19.00
A more serious sparkler, this wine is dry with citrus and yeast aromas and flavors; fresh and clean on the palate.

Sieur d’Arques Toques et Clochers Limoux Blanc Terroir Autan 2014, $17.00
This 100% Chardonnay offers up floral aromas with a rich palate of pear, apple and a balanced use of oak; long length.

Château-Rives Blanques Dédicace Limoux Blanc 2012, $21.00
Produced from 100% Chenin Blanc, this wine displays yeast and floral notes on the nose with a lovely richness and roundness on the palate.

Domaine de Baron’arques Limoux Rouge 2012, $39.00
Barrel aged in a combination of 50% new barrels and 50% first and second use, this Merlot-dominant wine blend provides berries, black fruit and herbal notes joined by earthy and oaky flavors on the palate.

Michel Capdepon Limoux Méthode Ancestrale Fruité NV, $16.00
Even though the wine’s residual sugar level is at 95 g/l, this wine is beautifully balanced with floral and apple notes on the off-dry palate and finishes cleanly.

Always a good idea: Champagne and caviar

2016-07-12 18.12.23At its The Art of Celebrating the Holidays event, Tattinger’s corresponding event booklet proclaimed that, “Champagne is always a good idea.” It’s hard to disagree, especially given that the event also featured a smorgasbord of raw oysters, chilled shrimp and… caviar.

The picture perfect evening, held on the Hotel Eventi’s South Veranda, showcased a lovely line-up of Tattinger’s Champagnes, many of which were matched with a specific caviar from Calvisius.

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Vitalie Tattinger

Welcoming us at the beginning of the seminar portion of the event, Vitalie Taittinger called the marriage of Champagne and caviar “A pure pairing.”

Although the event’s emphasis was on the palate, it was interesting to note the similarities in these two products – both of which require long aging processes and an attention to quality and detail.

As we began to taste through the pairings, John Knierim, National Sales Manager for Calvisius USA, directed us to place the caviar on the back of our hand to enjoy it without the flavor or distraction of the spoon and then crush the eggs on the roof of the mouth to get the full sensation.

An Italian-based company, Calvisius started its foray into farm-raised caviar with the importation of six fish from UC Davis as part of the University’s plan to repopulate the earth with sturgeon. Not surprisingly given its heritage, Calvisius has earned Friends of the Sea certification and follows sustainable fishing practices.

Among some of the fun facts gleaned during the seminar:

  • Sturgeons are older than dinosaurs.
  • The different styles of caviar can be attributed to sturgeon variety as well as egg size.
  • The front half of the egg sac differs from the back half in that the front portion has a much higher fat content.

TASTING NOTES

Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française NV, $60.00
Beautiful aromas of yeast and apple peel with long length.
→Calvisius Caviar Tradition Prestige: From white sturgeon females aged 7 to 22 years, this caviar takes 11 years to produce; salty and buttery, delicate, saline/marine.

Champagne Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus NV, $95.00
An intense nose of brioche and nuts with a fuller mouthfeel than the Brut La Française.
Calvisius Caviar Oscietra Classic: Nuttier and less salty than Tradition Prestige.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006, $199.00
This vintage wine displays lovely citrus and toast aromas and flavors.
Calvisius Caviar Siberian: Produced from a Russian species of sturgeon; sticky texture with slightly salty notes; bold; an intense, yet enjoyable, combination.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006, $262.00
Also a vintage wine, this offers up berries and yeast, with a hint of peach on the delicate palate.
Calvisius Caviar Oscietra Royal: Differs from the Oscietra Classic since this features eggs from the front 10-20% of the egg sac; very rich and salty.

Not paired with caviar, but also available for tasting that evening were the Prestige Rosé NV ($84.00), Nocturne NV ($82.00) and the newly launched Nocturne Rosé NV ($84.00), due out this holiday season. The Nocturne range are Sec Champagnes with a slight sweetness (17.5 g/l of dosage) that add a hint of sweetness, but are still well balanced.

To purchase Calvisius caviar, see Foody Direct’s website.

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The fries have it

2016-06-16 15.57.23Pairing food and wine can be quite complicated – finding the perfect combination of flavors and textures on both the plate and in the glass that harmonize with one another.

But, it can also be rather simple: salted, buttered popcorn with a glass of Brut Champagne!

Of course, most frequently, the reality lies somewhere in the middle as was the case at the 2nd Annual Southwest Wines of France Gourmet French Fries Competition held in June. The Wine Enthusiast-sponsored event brought together a wealth of wines from Southwest France, a wide swath of land that includes numerous appellations. Here, internationally renowned grapes co-mingle with lesser known varieties. In this regard, Cabernet Franc and Malbec rival Fer Servadou and Gros Manseng in acreage among the top 12 planted varieties. The result of these diverse plantings produce nearly every style of wine from still and sparkling to white, rosé and red.

Frankly, like the simple popcorn and fizz pairing noted above, unadorned French fries are a tasty companion to many wines. But, the assembled chefs brought their A-game to elevate the humble potato stick.

Ricky Camacho, Anejo
Carnita Fries: Confit pork shoulder, poblano lime aioli, garlic crisps, cilantro and pickled onions
Served alongside a selection of dry white wines

Christopher Stam, Spice Market
Thai Fry: Hand-cut French fry with kaffir lime, garlic crumbs, Nouc cham mayonnaise, house made chili sambal, scallions and cilantro
Served alongside a selection of dry rosé wines

Greg Rubin, American Cut
Beef Fat Fries: Hand cut fries, fried to perfection. Tossed with parsley, rosemary salt and dry aged beef fat.
Served alongside a selection of fruity red wines

Pedro Duarte, Sushisamba
Crispy Potato Confit: Chicharrón de pato (duck crackling), black garlic, balsamic, rosemary and sea salt.
Served alongside a selection of 100% Malbec wines

Aaron Lamonica, Seamstress + Belle Shoals
Freedom Fries: Slow smoked brisket folded into a pork based gravy. Kennebeck potatoes blanched twice, topped with grated Midnight Moon Goat cheese, chives and orange zest.
Served alongside a selection of full-bodied, red wines

I tasted through many of the wines and found a few favorites of the bunch.  Most of the wines hailing from this region are well priced, making them an affordable pleasure, whether or not you hold the fries.

TASTING NOTES

WHITES
Alain Brumont Les Jardins de Bouscasse 2011, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, $15.00

Rich and waxy with nutty and pear aromas and flavors.

Château Tour des Gendres Cuvée des Conti 2014, Bergerac Sec, $16.00
Fresh, with lots of citrus notes; bright and pretty.

Cave du Marmandais Château La Bastide 2014, Côtes du Marmandais, $15.00 Grapefruit, slight oak, toast, rich and round on the palate.

ROSÉS
Domaine des Terrisses Grande Tradition Rosé 2015, Gaillac, $16.00
Pale in color with berries and floral notes.

Domaine de Pellehaut Hamonie de Gascogne Rosé 2015, Côtes de Gascogne, $11.00
Slightly more color, redolent of peaches and plums.

Producteurs Palimont Colombelle L’Original Rosé 2015, Côtes de Gascogne, $15.00
A really lovely wine with floral and citrus notes.

REDS
Domaine du Moulin 2013 Gaillac, $12.00
Complex, yet fruity, with red and black fruit and an herbal undercurrent.

Domaine Guillaman Les Hauts de Guillaman 2012, Côtes de Gascogne, $25.00
Displaing a rich and intense nose, with depth on the full-bodied palate; black fruit and floral notes.

Domaine des Terrisses Grande Tradition 2014, Gaillac, $18.00
Rustic in character, yet fresh and lively, with red fruit and slight bitter note in finish.

Château Flotis Si Noire 2011, Fronton, $24.00
Offers up a really interesting, somewhat funky nose, with concentrated and rich red and black fruit on the palate.

Alain Brumont Château Bouscasse 2010, Madiran, $25.00
Beautiful nose with fresh, spicy, red fruit and tobacco on the palate.

Time in a Bottle: The Pleasures and Treasures of Old Liquors

2016-04-12 20.47.39If we are lucky, we live in the present moment, enjoying and savoring the here and now, rather than constantly worrying about the future still to come. Yet, the opportunity to virtually travel back in time, uniting us with the past, can be a special experience. It is why, at least in part, we visit historic places and hold onto souvenirs imbued with memories from time gone by. Most mementos are a tangible, but fleeting glimpse, crumbling with the passage of years. For most things, we rely on museums to carefully preserve the past under lock and key and precise storage conditions.

While a stroll through an ancient site or viewing an antique document can bring the past to life, there is something inherently unique in partaking in a gustatory experience asynchronously shared with those who lived long ago. Much more than simply opening up a bottle of wine from a previous vacation destination (which momentarily brings us back to that seaside table in sleepy coastal town), older wines and spirits from decades — even centuries ago — can transport us to another era. In this way, an extremely rare tasting of 19th century Cognac, Armagnac, Port and Madeira provided the sensory time machine to visit the more distant past.

Held in connection with an auction at Christie’s featuring 39 bottles of Cognac and Armagnac, each dating to a presidential term of office, from 1789 to 1977, the tasting was presented by Old Liquors, a wine shop specializing in vintage wines and spirits.

The tasting event was hosted by Old Liquors’ CEO, Bart Laming at New York’s Brandy Library. Interestingly, Brandy Library owner, Flavien Desoblin, a specialist in Cognac, noted that, “The U.S. palate has matured to appreciate older brandies, but is still whisky focused.”

Also present that evening was Christie’s Head of Wine, Edwin Vos, who painstakingly opened each bottle and shared tips for cellaring such treasures such as the admonition to store Madeira upright due to its high alcohol and high acidity content, which would damage the cork if left horizontally.

Admittedly, indulging in such wines is an expensive and limited proposition – there are scant bottles remaining. However, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to taste these rare wines and recall the world as it once was even if none of us had been there ourselves.

For those with the means and interest in pursuing their own sensory experiences, Old Liquors bills itself as the “World’s largest Old Liquors Store,” with a robust website that accepts orders from around the world.
By Phone: +31 76 5416227
By Email: info@oldliquors.com

TASTING NOTES
Madeira 1865 Café Anglais Madere Vieux, Bual
Aromas of candied ginger, honey and spice; medium sweet palate with high acidity, flavors of coconut, yeast, rancio, ginger bread and orange peel; long length.

Port 1887 Brand unknown, Unknown shipper
A slight rancio note gives way to floral, cherries and bacon on the nose; medium sweet palate, with dried red fruit dominating; much fruitier than the Madeira; long length.

Cognac 1928 Croizet B. Léon Grande Réserve
Greeted by orange peel, spice and slight honey aromas; dry palate with high alcohol, displaying spices, oak and vanilla with elegance and long length.

Cognac 1914 Maxim’s, Caves du Restaurant, Fine Champagne, Réserve
This has an intense nose with woody and vanilla aromas and flavors; it is fuller-bodied on the palate than the above Cognac.

Armagnac 1893 Jacques Marou, Vieil, Handwritten label
This spirit offers concentrated dried fruit, most notably prunes and dates, along with oak and vanilla; simply lovely.

Cognac 1811 Napoléon, Grand Réserve, Imperial glass shoulder, button ‘N’
Aromas of bruised banana, vanilla, dried fruit and orange rind; dry on the palate with high alcohol, offering up spice and floral notes.

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Looking at the world through rosé-colored glasses

2015-mathilde-rose-backMy family and I visited Provence back in 2001. We didn’t know a lot about wine at the time; we just knew that we liked it.

On our first night in Provence, we stumbled across a lovely little restaurant with outdoor dining and knew that we had to join in the fun. We requested a table, sat down and gave the server our simple request: we want what the table next to us is having! A short while later our table was filled with incredible-looking, large grilled shrimp and glasses of rosé wine.

I don’t remember the name of that restaurant or even which town it was in, nor do I have any idea who produced that rosé, but that evening remains perfectly etched in our minds – a rosé moment! It is precisely for such moments that Mathilde Chapoutier crafted her wine (although admittedly, she hopes you will remember that she made it).

Accordingly, I don’t think she took much offense, if any, when I spent more time catching up with my colleague as we gorged on towers of seafood and several bottles of her wine on a summer Friday, rather than peppering her with questions about her background and winemaking philosophy. We were creating yet another rosé memory.

When your last name is so synonymous with wine, it is challenging to stay away from the wine industry. Mathilde Chapoutier tried it for a while, contemplating a career as a shooter (after many years as a successful competitor), but the 24-year old eventually gave in and joined the family business.

Today, as a member of the 8th generation of her family to make wine, she serves as Chief of Strategy and Business Development, a position, which has been quite rewarding. However, she was drawn to the idea of creating something uniquely hers – she wanted to make her own wine.

Her approach has been to create a wine that would appeal to her friends and other similar-minded folks who are afraid of wine or find it elitist. Overall, she wanted, “something simple, elegant and easy to drink.” She has succeeded in spades.

Although her family had previously produced what she refers to as food rosés – such as the hearty, deep pink Tavels – her father, Michel Chapoutier, was decidedly not a fan of Provençal rosé. In his opinion, there really weren’t many good ones in the market.

But, Mathilde was determined to prove him wrong and fought for this project despite his objections, eventually finding the Grand Ferrage estate, situated in the foothills of the Saint-Victoire Mountain. For her first vintage (2014), she purchased the juice, ultimately fermenting and blending the wine to her exacting standards.

Dad saw how receptive everyone was to the wine and relaxed his view. For her next vintage, she purchased the entire domaine, giving her full autonomy over the grapes and harvest as well as production. The wine is now available in the U.S. and ready for you to create your own rosé moments.

Mathilde Chapoutier Grand Ferrage Rosé 2015, Côtes de Provence, France, $24.99 (SRP)

untitledVery light in color, thanks to only a few hours of skin contact, this wine offers up floral and citrus aromas, with a dry and delicate palate with peach and floral notes, culminating in long length.

Rose dreaming on a winter’s day

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Certainly, a bottle of bubbly makes any occasion special – an instant upgrade from blah to ta-dah! It can brighten days and elevate moods as evidenced on a recent vacation.

Specifically, on said vacation, we were asked to wait in the restaurant’s lounge while they found us a table for dinner. About 15 minutes later, the manager brought over two complimentary glasses of Cava for us, immediately ensuring happy guests, made even happier when we were ushered to the best table in the house only a short while later.

And, every evening at 6:00 PM, the St. Regis Bahia Beach continues the tradition of sabering a bottle of sparkling wine to mark the transition from day to night, as the sun sinks below the horizon and the coqui frogs begin their song.

Moreover, if looking at the world through rose-colored glasses brings a change in attitude, just imagine what a glass of pink-hued, sparkling wine can do for you in the middle of a dreary winter!

Thinking pink, a recent tasting brought together a beautiful range of salmons, pinks and pale reds, all bursting with bubbles and imbuing the day with beauty and brightness.

Thankfully, while a winter vacation might be just a dream, enjoying a glass of sparkling rosé wine just requires an easy trip to your local retailer. Here are a few options to get you in the mood.

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Mionetto Prestige Gran Rosé (SRP: $14.00)
While not technically a Prosecco, since it is both a rosé and a blend of Raboso and Lagrein, this wine hails from the same area where Prosecco is produced. Medium salmon in color, this fresh and fruity wine offered up berry, floral and cotton candy aromas, with a slightly off-dry palate (fittingly, since it is labeled Extra Dry).

Mionetto Luxury Cuvée Sergio Rosé (SRP: $19.00)
Much darker hued than its fellow rosé from Mionetto, this deep pink wine displayed aromas of roses, cherries and strawberries on the nose, all of which persisted on the off-dry palate.

Ruffino Sparkling Rosé (SRP: $15.00)
Ruffino is a well known Tuscan producer, but they have begun to branch out to other Italian regions and recently released this sparkling wine made from the Glera grape of Prosecco fame. It has a pronounced nose of floral and red fruit (raspberry and strawberry) notes, joined by a hint of cotton candy on the slightly off-dry palate.

Cavas Hill 1877 Rosado Cava (SRP: $13.00)
A blend of Garnacha and Monastrell, this Traditional Method sparkler hails from Spain and was deep salmon in color.  Notes of ripe, dark berries and a hint of earthiness dominate both the nose and palate.

Alfred Gratien Brut Classique Rosé Champagne (SRP: $65.00)
Light and ethereal, this pale hued rosé Champagne presented classic yeasty, bready/brioche notes with a touch of strawberry and minerality on the brightly acidic palate, culminating in long length.

Pieces of the Puzzle: Putting Together a Glass of Champagne

2015-11-05 15.04.50Once upon a time (also known as several years ago), we found a scrap of plastic film that read, “Assembly of Dust. Some Assembly Required.”

Not knowing what it was or what is meant, it was one of the strangest and most confusing things we ever found on our kitchen counter. After much scratching of our collective heads, we finally identified the scrap as having come from the wrapper of a music CD that a houseguest had opened earlier that day. (It turns out that Assembly of Dust is the name of a band).

The creation of Champagne is truly like that moment – perplexing and puzzling – with lots of assembly required. In fact, lots is an understatement as evidenced by a recent visit from winemaker Régis Camus of Champagne House, Piper-Heidsieck.

During his trip to New York, Camus offered up a unique glimpse into this creation process, known as assemblage, with a tutored vin clairs tasting. A vin clair is a still wine (not sparkling) that has been produced in anticipation of making the blend that will ultimately be bottled for the secondary fermentation; in essence, each vin clair is the equivalent of a single puzzle piece.

Within the Champagne region, there are hundreds of puzzle pieces to be considered. First, there is grape variety; the permitted grapes include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Then, there are the approximately 100 different crus (top vineyards) from which the grapes are sourced. Third is a Champagne House’s Reserve wines – wines saved from previous vintages (and kept distinctly by individual vintage). And finally, there is the time that the wine is aged on its lees as the last piece of the puzzle, which is dictated in part by law (a minimum of 15 months for non-vintage and three years for vintage) and by house style, which typically exceed the minimums.

After each harvest, the winemaker and his team start with a blank canvas as the grapes are brought to the winery. Each parcel is fermented separately into wine, becoming the multitude of puzzle pieces – or vin clairs – available to the team. Their mission, which they choose to accept each year, is to taste through the individual wines and build the puzzle based upon the given vintage.

There is no printed box to follow, instead, the “picture” for these puzzle pieces comes in the shape of a bottle – the bottle of the wine produced the year before (and the year before that…). More specifically, the goal is to replicate the house style for each of the House’s wines. By achieving this goal, consumers can be sure that each and every time they buy a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV, it will taste precisely the same.

At Camus’ tasting, we were given five different samples that had been part of the 2014 assemblage for the Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV: Chardonnay Avize Cru 2014, Pinot Noir 2015 Verzy Cru, Pinot Meunier 2014 Ecueil Cru, Chardonnay 2009 Avize Cru and Pinot Noir 2008 Verzy Cru.

As in working to piece together a visual puzzle, each vin clair provides a sought-after characteristic that helps to shape the resulting wine; each piece adding something that would be missing without it. For instance, the Chardonnay 2014 Avize Cru was particularly prized for its structure and tension as well as its freshness, fruit and minerality. Meanwhile, the older Chardonnay provided more pronounced minerality and was richer, giving some needed depth to the final blend.

In all, the 2014 assemblage contained 55% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Meunier, representing approximately 110 different puzzle pieces, inclusive of 10% Reserve wines. It’s enough to make one dizzy (and that’s not accounting for the alcohol). However, the vin clair tasting did offer some insight into this complex process and gave me a renewed respect for these master tasters.

I prefer to leave the assembly to the Chef du Cave and drink the finished product; perhaps it will sustain me as I pour over my next 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

NB: At the conclusion of the formal tasting, we had the opportunity to enjoy several of Piper-Heidsieck’s Champagnes along with passed canapés. Given the informal format, I didn’t take tasting notes, but I was especially fond of the Rosé Sauvage and the prestige cuvée, Rare Millésime 2002. I may even have been willing to pose with the latter bottle’s laser cut label worn as a tiara.

A Re-introduction to Roussillon

I first visited Roussillon in 2001, but it wasn’t until I started studying wine in 2005 that I truly became acquainted with the wines of this region. Several recent tastings re-introduced these wines to me, reminding me that their diversity, quality and appealing price points make them worthy of renewed interest.

Admittedly, a large portion of production is handled by large co-operatives, but co-op is no longer a four letter word around here. In fact, today, many of the cooperatives function more like custom-crush facilities than the typical co-op of yesteryear. Plus, many small family wineries also exist, such as the Nadal family of Château Nadal Hainaut, whom I met at the Wines of Roussillon’s Roussillon Day in New York.

I also had the pleasure of meeting husband and wife team, Dominque and Claude Ortal, at the same walk-around tasting and took an instant liking to the friendly couple who have guided Clos Saint Georges and its related brands (Château de Canterrane, Collections Emotion d’Oc and others) since 1970. Their property is scattered among seven towns within the Aspres area of Languedoc-Roussillon. I also took an instant liking to their wines.

Another immediate “crush” at the tasting was Jean Boucabeille, winemaker for Domaine Boucabeille, a 28-hectare estate, situated due east of Perpignan.  Unfortunately, at the time of the tasting, my new “boyfriend” didn’t have U.S. representation, but I really enjoyed his wines and hope he made a successful match in finding someone to bring them in soon.

While I didn’t get the chance to meet all of the producers whose wines I tasted, I was generally impressed with the region’s refreshing rosés; its eager embrace of indigenous varieties; and its rich and decadent dessert wines. There were also some very interesting dry whites and reds, which were a welcome change. I also had the opportunity to taste a number of these wines with a colleague who works for an importer heavy with this region.

If you are not already familiar with these wines, I urge you to become acquainted. Your palate will thank me!

WHITE WINES
Emotion d’Oc, Cuvée de Paul-Muscat Sec 2012, IGP d’Oc, France, $NA
Made from Muscat grapes usually reserved for the production of fortified whites, this wine offered up exotic fruit aromas yet was dry, with ripe fruit character on the palate. Very pleasing.

Terrassous, Muscat Sec 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $14.00
Another dry Muscat, this wine was nice with more limited fruit expression and an interesting waxy texture on the palate.

Domaine Treloar, One Block Muscat 2013, IGP Pays d’Oc, France, $10.00
Rounding out the discussion of dry Muscats, this selection was richly layered with lots of depth and a similar waxy texture.

La Noble Chardonnay 2013, IGP Pays d’Oc, France, $12.00
This brand works with small producers and local co-ops to source fruit from Limoux. The wine is an unoaked version of the ubiquitous grape, which I was hesitant to try, but was duly rewarded with fresh citrus and melon fruit aromas and flavors, medium+ acidity, medium+ body and long length.

Le Cirque Grenache Gris 2012, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $18.00
This 100% Grenache Gris is produced solely in stainless steel by a modern cooperative, Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau, which serves more as a custom crush facility than as an old-fashioned co-op. Nicely textural with waxy notes and aromas of pear and melon, the wine is dry on the palate with ripe pear, slight apple and melon, medium acid and medium body.

Chateau de Lancyre, Roussanne 2012, IGP Monferrand, France, $22.00
This wine was one of my favorite discoveries. The Durand and Valentin families purchased the estate in 1970, taking on a 16th century chateau situated on the ruins of a 12th century fortress, with winemaking records that date to 1550. Today, they own 135 acres of vineyards planted to local varieties close to the Pic St. Loup area. The wine is made with 90% Roussanne spiked with some Viognier and Marsanne and displays aromas of flowers and marzipan, which persist on the dry, medium- to full-bodied palate. Just beginning to show some development, this wine can age well, becoming more complex and weighty with time.

Domaine Boucabeille, Terrasses 2014, Cotes du Roussillon, France, €NA
A blend of Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, this wine was fresh, fruity and complex on both the nose and palate, culminating in long length.

Domaine Boucabeille, Les Orris Blanc 2013 Cotes du Roussillon, France, €27.00
Bringing together 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Rousanne, this wine was distinctly floral and mineral, with some spice and pear notes lingering in the finish.

Mas de Lavail, Terre d’Ardoise Old Vine Carignan Blanc 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $14.00
A unique wine given its white color and production from a deeply pigmented red variety. Fresh and clean with white flowers, this is a very food friendly wine.

Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Marechal Blanc 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $11.00
Not surprising given the 60% Muscat-40% Viognier blend, this wine is extremely aromatic with floral and exotic fruit aromas. Its dry palate, medium+ body, offered up depth and complexity with floral, melon and mineral flavors and long length.

Domaine Vacquer, Esquisse 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $14.00
This blend of 40% Roussane, 40% Macabeo and 20% Grenache Blanc was fresh and clean with melon, pear and spice notes.
ROSÉ WINES
Le Pot du Clos, Rosé 2014, IGP Pays d’Oc, France, $NA
This was very fresh with good acidity, medium body and flavors of melon and berry fruit; really lovely.

Domaine Cazes, Le Canon Rosé 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France, $11.00
Produced from a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre, this rosé was more Provençal in style than the others I tasted, with slight berry fruit on the nose and palate.

Domaine Vacquer, L’Ephémère Rosé 2014, Cotes du Roussillon, France, $14.00
Produced from a blend of 1/3 each: Carignan, Grenache Noir and Syrah, this wine was subdued, but elegant, with mineral, melon and long length.

Penya, Rosé 2014, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France $11.00
Cooperative Penya is located in the French Catalan area, just north of Spain. The 96% Grenache Noir and 4% Syrah blend, produced from vines with an average age of 25-35 years displays aromas of under-ripe strawberry and slight herbs on the nose. It is dry, but with a hint of sweetness on the attack, with crisp acidity and a clean finish.

RED WINES
Penya, Rouge 2013, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France $10.00
An unoaked blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre, this wine offers up intense berry aromas on the nose with herbs; dry rich, concentrated berries, dried herbs, good acidy, really nice.

Domaine Vaquer, Cuvée Bernard 2012, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France $20.00
Another one of my top picks! The Vaquer family has owned the property for more than 100 years. Bernard Vaquer, for whom this wine is named, passed away in 2001; the 25-hectare, high altitude property is currently managed by his wife, Frederique, who was born and raised in Burgundy. Bringing together 33% each of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, aromas of red fruit and herbs greet the nose. On the palate, it is quite elegant, with medium+ body; medium tannins; cherry, berry and herbal flavors; and long length.

Domaine Cabirau Serge & Nicolas 2012, Maury Sec, France $22.00
From one of the newer Roussillon appellations, this wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 28C% Syrah and 12% Carignan. The 13.5-acre property was purchased by Hand Picked Selections President, Dan Kraitz, with this wine named for the vineyard manager – Serge Soulatge – and winemaker – Nicolas Burger – who are responsible for assisting Dan in crafting this wine. The wine was aged for 5 months in large oak vats yielding intense and concentrated fruit, with notes of smoke and herbs. It is dry with a sweet attack of red fruit, with medium acidity, medium+ body and lovely freshness that pervades the palate.

Domaine de l’Edre, L’Edre 2011, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, France $30.00
A blend of 46% Syrah, 26% Grenache, 19% Carignan and 9% Mourvèdre, this wine is produced at the extremely low yield of only 1.27 tons/acre from a sustainably grown vineyard in Vingrau, jointly farmed by friends Jacques Castany and Pascal Dienunidou. This wine is produced in two versions – unoaked and oaked. Aromas of berries and pomegranate dominate the nose and palate, it is very polished and focused. The dry palate offers medium+ acidity with bramble fruit and juicy berries and ripe, rich tannins.

Domaine de l’Edre, L’Edre 2010, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, France $30.00
A nearly identical production to the wine above, but this time aged in oak (12 months in 2nd use French oak barrels), this wine displays a slight aroma of oak on nose, joined by blackberry and leather. The full-bodied palate shows well-integrated oak, rich black fruit and long length; really beautiful.

FORTIFIED WINES
Clos Saint Georges Muscat de Rivesaltes Cuvée Eva 2014, Rivesaltes, France, $15.00
Offering lovely, floral aromas, this wine is nicely balanced, with slight licorice and anise notes in the finish.

Domaine Treloar Muscat de Rivesaltes 2013, Rivesaltes, France, $14.00
This wine is so beautifully balanced that its sweetness is almost imperceptible at first. Mineral and anise notes linger in the long length.

Domaine Boucabeille Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d’Age, Rivesaltes, France, €27.00
A vin doux rancio wine, it is showing some initial development, with lots of spice on the nose and palate.

Domaine Cazes Rivesaltes Ambré 1997, Rivesaltes, France $30.00
Produced from Grenache Blanc, this wine spent considerable time in cask before being bottled in 2013. It is complex and rich with dried fruit and spice and would pair beautifully with pumpkin pie.

Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambré 1992, Rivesaltes, France, $50.00
This wine was almost Cognac-like in its aromas and flavors, displaying complex and developing notes on both the nose and palate.

Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambré 1981, Rivesaltes, France, $66.00
Spicy, stunning and simply amazing; my favorite of the three Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambré selections listed here.

Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambré 1974, Rivesaltes, France, $83.00
Intense aromas and flavors; quite lovely, with lots of life still remaining.