Eric Aracil, Export Manager, Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon, picked me up for a full day of wine tasting in the Roussillon region. He apologized for the weather and explained how unusual it was since this area actually gets 320 sunny days per year.
Our first stop was at Domaine Piquemal, a family-owned winery that was now in the hands of the fifth generation, Marie Pierre Piquemal. She greeted us in the brand new building that now houses their tasting room and winery.
My favorite wine at Domaine Piquemal, though, was the 2010 Les Terres Grilleés, a combination of syrah, grenache and carignan that exemplifies the herb influence in the vineyards.
Maison Cazes, the largest vineyard in France to practice organic and biodynamic farming.
Lional Lavail, owner and general manager at Cazes, met with us and showed us the solar panels used in this area, which is known to be windy and sunny most of the year. Among the unusual techniques they use to avoid chemicals is a supply of bats to kill spiders and encourage the insects that will help with pollination.
I had a wonderful quinoa cake and some bread out of the oven in this rustic setting while we tasted some spicy red blends and finished with a most unusual 1999 Rivesaltes Ambré. This barrel-aged Grenache was orange in color and a very good combination of sweet and woody, though it was still hard to pull me away from the Apple-Caramel dessert!
Before I could say no more, Lional pulled out a 1978 White Grenache, which had most incredible notes of apricot, dates, ginger and cherries. It was sad to leave Maison Cazes (and its wines), but we had more places to go and bottles to taste.
Cases de Pene is actually a cooperative of 60 growers from the town with the same name. One winemaker works here to blend and then store the wine in large concrete tanks in the middle of this quaint town. The wines are then sold and exported under the Chateau de Penya name.
Roussillon that’s worth pre-ordering.
It was time to climb the mountain a bit for the coldest vineyards of Mas Amiel. François Trouquet took us around and showed us some of the unusual winemaking techniques here, including the largest wooden barrels I’ve seen and the smallest containers – which are kept outside.
Mas Amiel of quite a selection of grenache. My excitement went from one end of the spectrum to the other. I loved the 2009 Vintage Blanc, a grey grenache with tropical minerality (including strong pineapple notes), and a creamy, long lasting finish. I also relished the 2010 Vintage, a black grenache full of chocolate and back raspberry.
My salad was good, but the cheese filled bilini and mushroom, potato, yam dish was just what I needed with the La Romania, an oaked malvasia/vermentino, which stood strong on its own. We ended the meal with a chocolate molten cake and Vin Doux Naturel AOC Rivesaltes Garnet, a black grenache that tasted of plums, black currant and a little bit of green pepper to finish my day with spice.