Sun fetishists. Lavender fetishists. Sun flower fetishists. Wine fetishists. If you are one of these above degenerates (as we confess we are), you have a penchant for the South of France. You are thinking about the South of Depp and Clooney.
But we want you to think of a different part of the French south, but one not any less beautiful. Also a place where the wines hit exceptionally high notes. But, not as well known. I am talking about Roussillon. I want all of us to talk about Maury.
Having spent the evening before in Argelès-sur-Mer, we made our way inland and before long, we were well into the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The drive, especially once we were past the outskirts of Perpignan, was breathtakingly beautiful.
In the Pyrénées-Orientales, the mountains are everywhere and if you look carefully, you will spy some ancient Cathar castles.
Among the twists and turns of these mountain roads, are picturesque villages of Cucugnan, Tuchan and Padern. So easy to get delightfully lost in their narrow streets and you don’t have to look far to find excellent food and great wines.
Soon we were in Maury.
Here it is not easy to escape the steep mountains with vineyards in the valleys and along the slopes. The soil is mostly black schist.
We at Terra Vigna and Sierra Nevada Imports have a thing for schist. Vines growing on schist tend to suffer. Suffering is good – both for plants and people. It builds character.
We did earlier mention all the glorious sunshine and the Mediterranean is not far away to lend it’s cooling influence. Here grapes do really well. Grenache’s spiritual home has got to be the South of France. Roussillon is no different.
Domaine de Venus is in the heart of it all. Their vineyards are not all in one location. In fact they comprise of 30 hectares spread over 60 different vineyards in Maury and Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet. This spread allows for wines from Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes Catalanes and Maury.
The wines are elegant and with beaucoup the character. This is a small production enterprise. We arrived in time to see the grapes being brought into the winery!
Despite the busy morning, we were lucky to taste the wines with Nathalie Abet, the Cellar Master. More about those wines next.