Sweet wines that Rous­sil­lon vine­yards pro­duce

Montreal Times - - News - By Marco Gio­vanetti mtltimes.ca

The wines of Rous­sil­lon are a legacy of an­cient Greek mer­chants and sailors from Corinth that in­tro­duce to their colonies and trade sta­tions in the Cata­lan coun­try­side vine ma­te­rial from the East­ern Mediter­ranean to cre­ate the first

Mus­cat a Petit Grain vine­yards in Dom Brial vine­yards.

Va­ri­eties such as Moscato d'Alessan­dria, Mus­cat à Petits Grains and Mal­va­sia were later joined by Grenache, Carig­nan, and Ma­cabeo from the King­dom of Aragon (Spain), and Cinsault, Syrah, Marsanne, and Ver­mentino to cre­ate a flour­ish­ing wine pro­duc­tion now ex­ported around the world.

In my lat­est press trip to the re­gion, I was en­thralled by the mel­low, aro­matic sweet wines I tasted. Like i wrote be­fore in th­ese pages, there were numer­ous nice dry reds and whites in my trip, but the high­lights be­long to the sweet, some of them for­ti­fied wines (vins doux) that many Rous­sil­lon vine­yards pro­duce.In a se­ries of three ar­ti­cles, I will do an overview of the sweet wines of Rous­sil­lon. For this col­umn, we will dis­cuss the Rivesaltes and Mus­cat de Rivesaltes

Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru, Maury, Rivesaltes, Mus­cat de Rivesaltes. Those for­ti­fied wines ap­pel­la­tions are now fa­mous beyond bor­ders! . Vins Doux Na­turels are made from ei­ther the Mus­cat or the Grenache grape va­ri­ety. Red or white, aged in stain­less steel tanks or in oak bar­rels, they amazed me with their sweet con­cen­tra­tion and aro­matic el­e­gance.

Vin doux na­turel is a wine style that has a nat­u­ral level of sweet­ness. They are crafted by light for­ti­fi­ca­tion with a spirit be­ing added to the wine be­fore the end of the fer­men­ta­tion process, usu­ally con­sist­ing of a neu­tral spirit. This process is known in french as mu­tage. This type of wine also con­tains resid­ual grape sug­ars.

Ar­naud de Ville-Neuve, a doc­tor of medicine at the Uni­ver­sity of Mont­pel­lier, de­vel­oped this method in the late 13th cen­tury, and this method of mu­tage can be used to make Both red and white wines. The Langue­docRous­sil­lon area is fa­mous for the pro­duc­tion of top­notch vin doux na­turel, as the dry and windy cli­mate helps to con­cen­trate the sweet­ness in the grapes. Most wines of this type are aged in old oak bar­rels and ex­posed to the sun to con­cen­trate fla­vors.

Vine­yards at Dom Brial

An im­por­tant ap­pel­la­tion in Rous­sil­lon pro­duc­ing sweet wines is Mus­cat de Rivesaltes. From an eco­nomic stand­point, this ap­pel­la­tion takes 64% of the sweet wine pro­duc­tion in Rous­sil­lon. They are made with the va­ri­eties mus­cat petits grains and mus­cat of Alexan­dria. When young th­ese wines of­fers ex­otic and trop­i­cal fruit aro­mas. As they get older they de­velop notes of honey and con­fit apri­cots.They marry well Asian cuisines and Tapas.

Then there is Rivesaltes. Th­ese are sweet wines in a myr­iad of styles with the em­pha­sis on ox­i­da­tion ag­ing.Am­ber Rivesaltes is re­quired to age a min­i­mum of 30 months, and made ex­clu­sively with white va­ri­eties.Th­ese are wines that bring to mind aro­mas of con­fit cit­rus fruit, dry fruits and soft spices. In con­trast, Tuilé Rivesaltes is also aged a min­i­mum of 30 months, but there is more lee­way in the grapes per­mit­ted: Both red and white.. Th­ese are more in­tense wines with notes of co­coa, cof­fee, to­bacco and fruits in con­serve. There is Hors d’age which is a Tu­ile with 5 years min­i­mum ag­ing. Fi­nally, there is Ran­cio which is Am­ber Rivesaltes or Tu­ile with a fur­ther ag­ing in an ox­ida­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Guillaume Gan­gloff

Dom Brial, the big­gest wine co­op­er­a­tive of Rousil­lon that I vis­ited dur­ing my press trip, crafts ex­em­plary bot­tlings of Mus­cat Rivesaltes and Rivesaltes. In fact, they were one of the first pro­duc­ers of Mus­cat de Rivesaltes In a visit and tast­ing lead by Guillaume Gan­gloff, its com­mer­cial di­rec­tor, I had the op­por­tu­nity to taste some old Rivesaltes as fars back as 1959, which quite frankly was a eye-open­ing and en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

A mag­nif­i­cent and rare wine, the 1959 was a mem­o­rable trea­sure. A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Ma­cabeo, it was im­pres­sive with com­plex notes of dry apri­cots and co­conut . On the mouth, it was very round and with a per­plex­ing con­cen­tra­tion.A mag­nif­i­cent acid­ity de­spite more than 50 years of age with deep notes of old wood and spices.Very gen­er­ous with a fi­nale that re­calls a great Span­ish brandy.

I also had a chance as well to taste the 1979 and 1999. Equally ex­cep­tional the 1979 is a cross be­tween a sherry palo cor­tado and a cognac. Per­plex­ing aro­mas of ba­nana cake, smoke and salted caramel. On the mouth, just ex­quis­ite with a fine bal­ance and a sul­try mouth­feel. Fi­nally, the 1999, charms you with its no­ble notes of ca­cao and con­fit cit­ric fruits, the type that you find in panet­tone.

An­other wor­thy pro­ducer of the Rivesaltes style is Do­maine de Ni­dol­eres. Lo­cated in the Aspres in front of the Al­bères, at the Pyre­nean foot hills, they have been mak­ing wine in Rousil­lon for more than eight gen­er­a­tions.Their vine­yard are lo­cated on clayey stony and sandy ter­races in “Les Aspres“with a low yield ,no more 35 hl/ha.. Their Rivesaltes Am­bré 1997 dis­played racy aro­mas of orange peel, to­bacco, and mid­dle east­ern spices. Fine and very unc­tu­ous with a very fine per­sis­tence re­call­ing fine notes of ran­cio and wal­nut notes. Perfect with a nice cigar at the end of a meal.

If you ever hap­pen to visit Ni­dol­eres, they of­fer a guest­house where you can sam­ple their other wines and try their fine Cata­lan cui­sine. Their menus are based on lo­cally grown pro­duce and are sea­son based. They make an ex­cel­lent chicken cata­lan style and their crema cata­lana was a hit with the Rivesaltes 1997.

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