The French Winophiles are on their way to southwest France this week, virtually of course. Lynn from Savor the Harvest leads the way as we explore the white wines of Roussillon, just a stone’s throw from the Spanish border. Roussillon boasts a diverse array of soils, microclimates, and grape varieties; no surprise that the wines have range as well. They can be sweet and strong, as in the aromatic Vins Doux Naturels from Rivesaltes; they can also be crisp and dry, with a salty hint of the nearby Mediterranean.
For a thorough overview of the region, its history and wines, please do read Lynn’s invitation post, which is chock-full of great information.
Care to join us?
Our chat happens this Saturday July 18th, at 11 am ET on Twitter, following #Winophiles. We’re easy to find! And, as long as you append the hashtag to your tweets, we’ll be able to see you, too. Add your tasting notes, food pairings, and travel tales to the mix and, by all means, ask questions. It’s a friendly forum open to all wine lovers. Hope to see you there!
For a preview of what each blogger will contribute to the discussion, scroll to the bottom of this post.
College Sweethearts Dream of Making Wine Together
Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet met at the Université de Montpellier in southern France: she was studying agricultural engineering, he was pursuing an enology degree. What brought them together was a mutual interest in horses and a love of exploration. The couple spent weekends wandering through the Roussillon countryside and decided to move there after graduation.
Stéphane applied his enology expertise at well-known wineries such as Domaine du Mas Amiel while Marjorie dreamed of the day they could start their own vineyard. Growing up in a wine-loving family in Grenoble, she was well acquainted with the esteemed wines of Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu. Having worked for Northern Rhône luminaries like Yves Cuilleron, she knew that a wine was first and foremost an expression of place, a product of its environment.
As the couple continued their weekend rambles through the Roussillon hillsides, Marjorie came across a parcel of land that reminded her of Côte-Rôtie: a lacy vein of white quartz soil surrounded by black schist. This plot, known as Roc Blanc, was to become the foundation of the Gallet’s own winery, Roc des Anges.
A Place of Their Own
By 2008 the Gallets were making wine from about 30 hectares of vines scattered around 50 separate parcels. Soils are predominantly iron-rich clay and most plots have a northern aspect, which provides a measure of relief from the summer heat. The vineyards are farmed biodynamically, a process the Gallets believe encourages the roots to establish themselves more deeply in the soil (protection against drought) and the development of a healthy, high leaf canopy (critical for photosynthesis.)
Moore Brothers Wine Company, which sells the Gallet’s wines in the US, offers this glimpse into the vineyards:
Since the beginning; their philosophy was to make soil-driven wines that followed “no clear recipe but clear convictions.” They believed strongly that the essence of a good wine lies in nature:
The sense of place is a hallmark of our wines. We let our curiosity guide us, we let time take its course, we let the vines and the wines lead the way, seeking the true expression of our terroir.
A Rising Tide
The Gallets have been remarkably successful with their venture in Roussillon. Their single-vineyard red wines, in particular, have received critical acclaim and can be found on the wine lists of Michelin-starred restaurants.
But that’s not what drives them forward. Their goal is to help make Roussillon wines a household name; to foster a rising tide that lifts all boats. In addition to tending their own vines, Marjorie and Stéphane consult at the local Cave Coopérative de Rivesaltes, where they advise on issues such as sustainable farming practices, controlling yields, and how to pinpoint the perfect harvest date (especially important in a warm climate.)
They want the world to associate Roussillon with high-quality wines at a range of price points.
It’s the Gallet’s interpretation of the Butterfly Effect.
The Butterfly Effect
Originally articulated by scientist Edward Lorenz as a question: “Does the flap of butterfly wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” the butterfly effect has been used to describe the mega-consequences of a seemingly minor occurrences. As with most things, the truth is a bit more complicated.
American Scientist explains the phenomenon, which is part of the chaos theory of mathematics, this way:
Some complex dynamical systems exhibit unpredictable behaviors such that small variances in initial conditions could have profound and widely divergent effects on the system’s outcomes. Nature’s interdependent cause-and-effect relationships are too complex to resolve.
In terms of the original statement, with the butterfly causing a tornado, I think this means that every natural event includes so many variables that it’s almost impossible to say definitively that X invariably leads to Y. But if you look at modern meteorological methods, you’ll see they’re based on an extrapolation of this cause-and-effect hypothesis to include multiple models simultaneously, each with a slightly different starting point. Think about the different models used to predict the path of a hurricane, as an example.
What does this have to do with wine?
2019 L’Effet Papillon IGP Côtes Catalanes (13% abv; $14 retail)
A blend of Grenache Blanc (90%) and Macabeo (10%) this wine is named after the Butterfly Effect. While they’ve not come out and said so, I think the Gallets were thinking of how nature throws a lot of challenges at a winegrower: wind, rain, too much sun or not enough, pests, and disease. And let’s toss climate change into the mix, although we humans can take credit for that.
Each season, when Marjorie and Stéphane work their vines in Roussillon, they contend with a constantly changing set of conditions, adapting to each one in search of an honest wine that tells a tale of time and place. In their own way they’re managing the chaos inherent in the natural world, with a nod to the scientific meaning of the Butterfly Effect.
But I can’t help thinking that their work makes a case for the laymen’s interpretation embraced by the world at large: that, by working side by side with their counterparts in Roussillon, they’re setting in motion a phenomenon whose impact extends far beyond southwest France, creating a global community that appreciates the unique identity of Roussillon wines.
Color: Pale lemon.
Nose: Pronounced aromas of white peach, cantaloupe, lemon zest, and thyme. Smells like a gust of fresh air wending its way through a Mediterranean garden
Palate: Dry. Flavors as on the nose, with medium+ acidity, medium alcohol, medium body. The ripeness of the fruit hints at sweetness but falls just short, thanks to the crisp acidity. There’s a little weight to it, giving a smooth mouthfeel; the finish is a medley of orange, lemon, peach, and a little saltiness.
Pairing: We made a white pizza dotted with ricotta, shishito peppers, prosciutto, a sprinkling of blue cheese, and chopped dates. Just before baking we topped it with thinly sliced shallots marinated in balsamic vinegar and a few rosemary sprigs in olive oil. While the ingredients were a little out there, this was one of the most delicious pies we’ve made – a perfect combo of sweet, salty, herby, meaty flavors that was heavenly with this wine. I have one more bottle of the L’Effet Papillon and guess what I’ll be making?
What the Rest of the Winophiles Are Tasting
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm pairs American Bay Scallops with French Roussillon Blanc.
- Cindy at Grape Experiences shares A Perfect Al Fresco Lunch in Roussillon: Domaine d’Aussières Chardonnay 2018 and Creamy Crab Quiche.
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! presents Banyuls Pet-Nat with Treats à La Buvette.
- Allison and Chris from ADVineTURES discuss Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire: The Essence of Rousillon.
- Melanie at Wining With Mel tells us about her Adventures in Roussillon White Wines.
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass explains A Roussillon Blanc Turns My Thoughts Toward Chicken.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator give us Testimony to Potential: Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Blanc Paired with Halibut.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles talks about Snow Capped Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea – Exploring the Stunning and Diverse Roussillon Wine Region.
- Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares Why You Will Love the White Wines of Roussillon.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers A Summer Pairing: Salade Niçoise + Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2017.
- Susannah from Avvinare pours Muscat de Rivesaltes – A Marvel from Roussillon.
- Katrina from Corkscrew Concierge hosts An Exploration of Roussillon White Wines.
- Terri at Our Good Life writes about Summer Love and White Wines from Roussillon.
- Payal at Keep the Peas whips up Northern Thai Food and a Roussillon Muscat.
- Nicole at Somm’s Table is having Fun with Ramen & Saint-Roch Cotes du Roussillon Vieilles Vignes Blanc.
- And host Lynn of Savor the Harvest offers Distinctive Roussillon White Wines for your Buy List.