April 28, 2016

Bonjour Mes Amis,
Continuing with our introduction to the various regions of France, we offer a brief tour of the Roussilon, mainland France’s southernmost, and some would say, most savage region. Enjoy.

Catalan France: The Roussillon 
The Roussillon is my favorite region in France. Perhaps, it’s the wild, untamed landscape where wild boar and wolves still roam freely, or the picturesque, remote villages, nestled deep in its hills, or it may simply be that the Roussillon’s deep cultural roots lie in Catalunya. The Roussillon is, undeniably, a region steeped in history. One inescapable fact, though, is that it is distinct from the many other regions of France, possessing its own customs, cuisine and, more recently, outstanding wines. Simply put, the Roussillon is always well worth the visit!  

Formerly known as the administrative region of Languedoc-Roussillon; since the first of this year,  it has been re-christened as the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées (the French, always tinkering with their administrative departments, and appellations!). The region comprises five departments, including the Roussillon (Rosselló in Catalan), which is the southernmost department in mainland France. In fact, it was part of Spain at one time and ruled by the Counts of Barcelona, until it was ceded back to France in 1659. A recent study showed that 65% of adults, over the age of 16, could understand Catalan, and roughly 40% could Roussillon Coat of Armsspeak it. In recent years, there has been a push by Catalan nationalists towards secession from the Languedoc and for greater autonomy for the region, including the revival of the Catalan language, and even the creation of a political entity, Catalunya Nord (Northern Catalonia), but this move seems to have minimal support. The arms of Roussillon, depicted in the lower half of the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées coat of arms, pictured right, is the Senyera, the flag of Catalunya, vertically disposed.

Catalan Cuisine of the Roussillon
Catalan cuisine was the subject of one of the earliest known cookbooks in the world, the Sent Sovi, written in the 12th century. Catalan cuisine was the quintessential melting pot, with culinary influences ranging from the Latin to the Gallic and to Moorish Spain. A seafaring peoples, the Catalans also imported spices that gave their cuisine an exotic flair. Combining sweet and savory flavors also added an extra dimension, and is a tradition that survives to the present–for example, adding dried fruit, or other fruits and semi-sweet chocolate, with poultry, lamb, and game dishes to create unique flavors. The cuisine of the Roussillon also combines a variety of ingredients that reflect the topography, that is,mer et montagne, the Mediterranean and the mountains.  Ailes des poulet, langouste au citron et au gingembre, Chicken wings and spiny lobster, with lemon and ginger, or Mixed vegetables with mussels and blood sausage, Ollada de petits légumes aux moules et boudin noir, are typical of this kind of culinary thinking. The recipes can be found in Culinaria France, on sale at Paris grocery, $19.99.

The Wines of the Roussillon
Most of the wines of the Roussillon are classified as Côtes du Roussillon or Côtes du Roussillon Villages, but there are also distinct appellations included, such as Maury, Banyuls and Collioure. Despite the fact that some of the region’s westernmost vineyards can be found at altitudes of almost 2000 ft., the Roussillon is exclusively subject to Mediterranean climatic influences, which means more than 2500 hours of sunshine a year, and an average annual temperature of 60°, and frequent exposure to the famous tramontane, a mainly dry wind from the northwest that brings healthy conditions for the vines. There is light rainfall, and this occurs mostly in the fall, in the form of thunderstorms. Summers are hot and dry and winters are mild, with little frost–this means that grapes achieve ripeness with ease at harvest time, and produce wines that give intense, fruity, spicy aromas to the red wines that are the hallmark of the region. The predominant grape varieties include Carignan and Grenache–both Spanish varietals–but supplemented by the ever-present Syrah, originally from the Rhone valley and Mourvèdre. Rosés are generally made with Cinsault and Grenache Gris. Winemaking in the Roussillon has grown by leaps and bounds, with investment from wineries and individuals from outside the region. Adopting the latest wine technology, reviving centuries-old vineyards, and crafting, limited-quantity, artisanal wines, the region has undergone a renaissance, and its wines have become sought after and imported to the U.S. in record numbers. As is our custom, Paris Grocery is happy to introduce you to some stellar selections for your enjoyment.

Domaine La Tour Vieille Collioure ‘Puig Ambeille’ 2011 $27.99
“More open and evolved, which is surprising given that it’s 80% Mourvèdre, the 2011 Collioure Puig Ambeille offers plenty of spice box, licorice, dried herbs and cured meat-like aromas and flavors. Medium bodied, supple and already drinking nicely, it does gain a tannic edge on the finish.” —Wine Advocate

Famille Lafage Miraflors Côtes duRoussillon Rosé 2015 $14.99
The brand new 2015 Miraflors rosé is a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Grenache Gris, all brought up in stainless steel tanks. This rosé is very bright, exhibiting ripe, yet taut, red berry flavors of cranberry and wild strawberry, along with hints of watermelon. Deeply satisfying, and an ideal wine for picnic dishes and light seafood fare. Don’t miss out on this typical Roussillon rosé!

M. Chapoutier Banyuls 2013 (500ml) $24.99

The chocolate-wine pairing made in heaven! Spread out over steep, narrow terraces overlooking the Mediterranean sea, the Banyuls appelation crafts vin doux naturel, naturally sweet,  fortified wines that are both exceptional and age worthy. 90% Grenache, with aromas of dried fruits, crystalized orange peel, and black pepper, followed by layers of dried plums, baking spices and dark chocolate on the palate. Unctuous.

Domaine Cabirau Côtes du Roussillon Rouge $16.99

After 27 years importing wine, HPS President Dan Kravitz took the plunge and purchased 13.5 acres of vineyard land in the Roussillon. Named Cabirau after the vineyard’s original designation, the domaine lies on a hill below the famed Cathar fortress of Queribus. Planted to Grenache, it includes a prized 3.5 acre parcel of 60 year-old vines. The backbone of the Syrah and Carignan ally perfectly with the opulent Grenache, giving a medium-bodied wine of intense black fruit flavors, redolent of mountain herbs. Awarded 91 points by the Wine Advocate.

Saint-Roche Chimères Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2013 $16.99
“A joint venture between Jean-Marc Lafage and Eric Solomon, the 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Chimeres is just another example of the brilliance of the 2013 vintage in the Roussillon. Coming all from the schist soils of Maury and a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan that spent 8-12 months in 500-liter barrels and concrete, it possesses a deep purple color to go with savory notes of kirsch and assorted darker berry fruits, pepper, truffle and damp earth. Full-bodied, thrillingly textured and with incredible purity of fruit, this knockout effort stays lively and elegant, with fine tannin, terrific length and no hard edges. It will knock your socks off over the coming 4-6 years.” —93 points, Wine Advocate

Violet Freres Byrrh Grand wine labelQuinquina $19.99
Developed in 1873 by the Violet Brothers in Thuir (Tuïr in Catalan) and registered under its trade name, this is an apéritif from the Pyrénées-Orientales, based on unfermented red grape must from the Carignan, Grenache and Alicante Bouschet varieties, grape spirits, and fortified wine. Its flavored with cinchona extract from Peruvian bark, dried orange peel , cocoa, and coffee beans. Ripe fruit, strawberry jam, balanced by bitter quinine and exotic spices notes on the palate. Deliciously different!

Remember, only 10 days left before Mother’s Day!

Rappelez-vous, seulement 10 jours
avant la fête des mères !

À Bientôt,
Kelsey et Manuel