The southern French wine regions of Languedoc and Roussillon are officially referred to in the same name. The former area gets a lot of credit for being innovative, but Roussillon is fairly unknown to many. Is that because they are especially good at making that rather misunderstood, sweet wine variety there? WINELIFE went to investigate in the sunny south.
Text: Petri Houweling, courtesy of Wines of Roussillon
The sweet side of Roussillon
Roussillon is an area with a huge wealth of variety in terms of nature, geology and culture. Delightful for tourists, but a vigneron in Roussillon does not have it easy. The vineyards often consist of rocky terraces against the slopes of the mountain where old vines are deeply rooted. Mechanisation is rarely possible there, so all the work is done by hand. The advantage is that this has kept this wine region unique. All the (negative) agricultural trends of the 1970s have passed this by. The soil, the grape varieties, it's all the same as ever.
Heavier than elsewhere
Only the climate is increasingly challenging. It is one of the hottest regions in France. Moreover, in terms of meteo, it's all just a bit more intense than elsewhere. When the Tramontane blows here, the dry wind from the Pyrenees, it is immediately with stormy force. Once it rains, it rains hard. And when it's hot, you quickly have to deal with a canicule, a heat wave. The area is even drier and hotter than Languedoc. This is why people plant higher and higher to maintain freshness in the wine and keep alcohol levels in check. There is no shortage of slopes, the area is surrounded by three mountains: the Massif des Corbières, the Pyrenees and Les Albères. Where there are mountains, there are also valleys. Scattered among the mountains here are many different terroirs, all with their specific characteristics. On the foothills of the steep slopes, terraced or not, there are soils with slate, granite, gravel and chalk in the subsoil. The total area of Roussillon's vineyards is 24,500 hectares and some 757,000 hectolitres of wine are produced annually.
Further reading? You will find more information in WINELIFE Magazine, issue 85. You can order this here.
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