Continuing my arduous and brave quest to taste my way through a whole host of new Roussillon wines, here are my thoughts on a couple more, tasted over the last couple of evenings. Neither are profound, but both are testament to what Roussillon is capable of at the "lower" end, when it is doing its own thing and not trying to emulate wines from other regions. This pair are just about as "Roussillon" as you will ever get.
Made from 100% old-vine Muscat A Petit Grains, lightly fortified with grape spirit. If you have ever been lucky enough to enjoy eating fresh muscat grapes (they are often available in French markets and supermarkets in late August) then you won't need me to tell you how delicious they are. And wines don't come much more "grapey" than a fine Muscat de Rivesaltes - and they don't come any better than this little cracker. The nose offers a riot of (you guessed it) grapey aromas, with notes of lime marmalade and clementines. The palate is both mouth-filling and super-fresh, like munching on a handful of grapes, but with an ethereal, marmalade-y richness. The inherent natural acidity and slight pithiness of the Muscat grape are complemented perfectly by just the right amount of fortifying grape spirit. To be honest, I have rarely tasted a bad Muscat de Rivesaltes (with such wonderful raw material, that would be difficult) but some cheaper examples can be a bit too hot for their own good. Not this one, though. - it manages to be both rich and mouth-watering at the same time, whilst the grape spirit adds a refreshing tanginess, rather than heat. Young Muscat de Rivesaltes is never profound, although I've heard tell that if you are brave enough to age it for 10 or 15 years, it can be. But why wait, when it tastes this good at less than 2 years old? It is utterly lovely - and very long, too. In all my years, I've yet to taste a better one. Yummy! A perfect match for patés, foie gras, cheeses of all descriptions, with fresh fruit, or as a delicious aperitif. A bargain at £11.50.
50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 30% Carignan, aged in vat. Medium ruby red colour with a light-ish rim. The nose offers enticing aromas of cherries, stewed plums and raspberries. Notes of herby garrigue and red capsicum, combined with a touch of meatiness, add savoury nuances. The palate is loaded with fresh, juicy red cherry and raspberry fruit flavours, again with some savoury/meaty notes. All of that flavour, combined with a healthy dash of tangy acidity and just the right level of tannin makes for a wine that is deliciously drinkable already. There may even be the merest hint of spritz, which serves only to lift it further above the ordinary. This wine shows just how good Roussillon reds can be at the "lower" end, with an aromatic and flavour profile not a million miles away from really good Cotes du Rhone - but with extra dimensions of freshness and lift. The much-maligned Carignan does more than its fair share to add to the interest and drinkability of this wine. And it actually tastes lovely, even after sampling the delights of the Muscat de Rivesaltes - no mean feat, for a dry red to follow a sweet white! This is yet another winner from one of the most reliable growers on my list. A versatile red wine, to enjoy with roast beef or lamb, roast vegetable dishes, cheese, pasta. £8.95.
Right, dinner calls...........