If you plan to visit Roussillon, spring is the best time to go. The sun, the wind, bring the crowd of holidaygoers to life. Roussillon has returned to the popular heaven it has always been. If you’ve experienced the food, wine and heart of Perpignan and its Mediterranean coast, you know how easily you can fall in love with it.
The top ten sommeliers from China and Korea were invited to visit Roussillon for a one-week wine regional tournament. They experienced the beauty of Roussillon first-hand.
From March 12 to March 17.
DAY 1 :
The first stop：Perpignan
Perpignan is the capital city of Pyrénées-Orientales in the South of France. Located at France’s southernmost tip, on both sides of the La Têt River, the east is near the Mediterranean Sea and west is the Pyrenees.
Perpignan is a fortress linking Spain and France. This excellent geographical environment makes Perpignan one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in Europe and one of the best places to cultivate grapes. People can swim in the sea and go skiing in the mountains in the same day, enjoying one of the most scenic cities worldwide.
The second stop：Le Café Vienne
DAY 2 :
The first stop：Vignobles Dom-Brial
Founded in 1923, it has 380 grape growers and a vineyard of 2,500. Because of this, cooperatives can produce widely flexible styles of wines.
The cooperative paid great attention to environmental protection. It was one of the first wineries in France to obtain the “sustainable development project grape grower” certification and established Roussillon’s first solar farm.
The Muscat wine is particularly worthy of commemoration. According to local legends, “Dom-Brial” was once a priest there. He personally brewed a Muscat wine and presented it to the king winning his favor. However, the priest Dom-Brial told the king: “if you want this Muscat wine, build a school for me where I can teach the children.” So, the king agreed to the priest’s request. This story remains widely told to this day and has brought Muscat wines to the forefront. Dom-Brial was the first person to make Roussillon’s Muscat wines.
The second stop：Domaine Piquemal
Built in the early 20th century, it covers an area of 48 hectares and vineyards are located in the Maury and Rivesaltes producing areas. The aesthetics of the wine-tasting rooms, tall new stainless-steel fermentation tanks and other modern technical equipment all demonstrate the winery’s modernity and technical support.
The vineyards of the Piquemal family have a diverse range of soils, including schist, calcareous clay, gneiss, and granite. The winery grows a wide variety of grape varieties in the most optimum of its different soils.
The third stop：Lunch in Maison du Terrior
Eric Aracil, winemakers and sommeliers gather together for a delicious lunch paired with a variety of Roussillon wines.
The forth stop：Mas Amiel
Mas Amiel’s oxidized wines sink in centuries-old wooden barrels and absorb the previously precipitated flavor characteristics. They need 20, 30 or 40 years to fully reach maturity.
Each year in early June, the wine is squeezed into glass jars and placed in outdoor open-air jars (a thousand of such 60-litre jars are placed in one area). In the glass, the wines age for up to 12 months, affected by the temperature difference between day and night. This is a unique and traditional aging “bonbonne”wine brewing method.
The fifth stop：Domaine Cazes
Domaine Cazes is located in the heart of the Roussillon region between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea.
The estate’s high-quality wines are brought to life by the region’s unique, mainly limestone and clay, but also schist and siliceous pebbles.
Due to the 14 grape varieties, the annual harvest time starts from mid-August and continues until mid-October. Grapes are harvested at the best ripening state of each variety. After harvesting the grapes and depending on the style of the wine to be produced, the winemakers decide whether to remove the stems or not, whether to squeeze, or the whole bunch of fermentation.
The sixth stop：Dinner at La Table D’Aimé
Just like local customs, Roussillon’s wine is elegant and natural. It contains a lot of unexpected surprises of great pleasure for ordinary drinkers like you and me.
The day’s trip was engaging and full of appreciation, the sommeliers tasted many wines paired with local French cuisine. The delegation had a fantastic meal under blue skies, white clouds, and of course the gentle breeze of the sea.
The wonderful journey continues..
DAY 3 :
The first stop：Château de Corneilla
Jonqueres d’Oriola is a prominent family in the Roussillon wine region of southern France. The family owns two wine castles, one of which is Château de Corneilla.
Templar Knights founded the castle in the 12th century. In this ancient castle, you can see the noble genealogy of the Jonqueres d’Oriola family.
The vineyards are only 6 km away from the Pyrenees, and the cool night helps the grapes develop sufficient acidity and a wide range of aromas. It produces fresh and pure aromas and taste wines.
The second stop：Roque
Collioure is a small town known for having the bluest sky in France. It is located on the northern tip of the Côte Vermeille, bordering the hills in the Pyrenees. This charming town has a strong artistic atmosphere and has gathered a large number of painters. Matisse once said: “the sky in France is not as blue as in Collioure”.
At noon, the delegation enjoyed walking in this small town, and visiting a local anchovy factory, yet another distinctive feature of the Pyrenees.
The third stop：Cave I’Etoile
Rated with a score of 100 by the famous La Revue du Vin de France in 2017.
The forth stop：Château Valmy
Since 1930, the family brewery has succeeded in blending the excellent qualities of its wines with the beauty of its vineyards, with a combination of traditional and modern methods of brewing. The 60-acre grape estate produces cote du Roussillon wines, Rivesaltes Muscat and Rivesaltes labelled wines. The winery has advanced winemaking techniques and experience, all using barrel-aging in wine mature fermentation warehouses.
The fifth stop：Dinner in La Villa Duflot
The delegation had dinner with Tramontane Wines’ owners in the beautiful Villa Duflot restaurant. In fact, Tramontane is the name of the wind blown over the mountains of Corbieres in the northwest of Roussillon. It blows through the vineyards helping the grapes reach maturity. The winery is named after this Northern wind.
DAY 4 :
The first stop：Château Nadal Hainaut
The combination of modernity and tradition ignites a spark of magic! The use of advanced winemaking techniques such as cold treatment and pneumatic pressing also follows the ancient maceration and mixing barrel tradition.
Château Nadal Hainaut was built in 1830. The vineyard has a total area of 53 hectares. The type of soil in the vineyard is gravelly limestone and clay soils providing good drainage and sufficient nutrients for grape growing. The vineyard is very hot and dry during the day, the gravel can release the heat absorbed during the day on cool nights that keep it from being damaged by freezing temperatures.
The second stop：Château de L’ou
Built in 1998, 30 hectares of vineyards are located in the foothills of the Pyrenees with many small plots.
Grapes in the winery are gathered by manual picking. The vineyard staff strictly follows the winemaker’s requirements for quality grape-picking.
The picking begins just before the sun-rise until 10 o’clock in the morning, in order to maintain the freshness of the grapes. The picking season depends on the nature of the grapes, and the delicateness of the grape peels and kernels are of an importance consideration.
The third stop：Clos Saint Georges
The forth stop：Maison Paré
It was under the fading light of sunset that the delegation arrived at Maison Paré to visit the Catalan Delicatessen.
The fifth stop：Dinner at Le Saint Jean
This ancient wine region, located in southern France, is filled with Roussillon’s ancient cultural heritage, set within a beautiful Mediterranean scenery, and overflowing with a variety of unique wines.
On the last two days of the regional tour, the group of sommeliers was accompanied by the beautiful landscape of Roussillon in their last days of tasting delicious Roussillon wine. The wonderful regional tour was about to come to an end.
This region, with 320 sunny days a year was about to say goodbye to its sommelier delegation in the same way it greeted them: with the brightest of sunny weathers.
DAY 5 :
The first stop：Olivier Bajard shop
Artistic French dessert made by Olivier BAJARD
Olivier Bajard is a French national dessert master, master of chocolate and master of sugar art. He is regarded as a master of national treasures and is considered to be a young and promising representative of France. He has a very important position in the heart of the French!
Olivier Bajard is one of the most outstanding French pastry chefs of our age. The holder of the title “best pastry chef in France,” and world champion in confectionary, is among the top-100 pastry chefs of the century.
In the morning, not only did the delegation taste mouth-watering French deserts, but also had the pleasure of marrying the sweetness of their food perfectly with a series of Vins Doux Naturels, arguably the best wine to drink in these circumstances. Moreover, they had the unique opportunity to do so while receiving a seminar on how to pair deserts with Vins Doux Naturels.
The second station ：Cave Arnaud de Villeneuve
The winery has three famous wines-making factories located on the Mediterranean coastline near Perpignan. Focus on the production of high-quality wines and special AOC natural sweet wines, such as the authentic region of Rivesaltes, the natural sweet and AOP production area of Rivesaltes.
What it called natural sweet wine, that was invented by Mr. Arnaud de Villeneuve in 1229. Roussillon tour naturally cannot miss the cooperative run by the natural sweet originator family.
The third stop：Domaine de Rombeau
Since 1726 Domaine de Rombeau has belonged to the Fabrègue family, and the estate has been handed down from generation to generation. Their winemaking experience and history have also been passed down. While respecting their tradition, they adopt the latest brewing concept without hesitation. The ancient and the modern blend in the winery shows in consistent quality wines.
The delegation visited the estate and enjoyed a lunch made by the winery owner.
The domaine mainly produces Muscat sweet white wine, Rivesaltes classic sweet wine, Cote du Roussillon wine… These wines fully reflect the characteristics of Southern French wine and reveal the soul of Roussillon terroirs.
The forth stop：Vignerons Catalans
Founded in 1964, the Catalans Wine Group is a group of winemakers federated by the largest wine farmers’ cooperatives in the Roussillon region. These winemakers have been making unremitting efforts for many years, specializing in winemaking techniques to meet customer requirements and quality wines.
The delegation carried out a tasting, while listening to the winemaker’s interpretation of the cultural background behind each wine and several anecdotes.
Nowadays, the Vignerons Catalans Group has gathered more than 1,500 wine farmers and owns 10,000 hectares of grape land, which has a significant advantage in the legal wine market in the Roussillon. The Group has carefully developed a number of brands that represent the most unique terroirs in Southern France. It has unsurprisingly become Roussillon’s largest wine group.
The fifth stop：Dinner at Le Clos des Lys
Serving a traditional French meal, Seguret is a Michelin-starred French chef who innovates in traditional Catalan cuisine. Local cuisine is accompanied with local wines.
Food pairing with Domaine Lauriga wines.
Originally built by the Clar family, the winery has an ancient cellar and is now equipped with modern winemaking and aging testers. The vineyard covers an area of 60 hectares, covering 3 key Lucy lands, planting traditional grape varieties, and other more international varieties (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Merlot). Domaine Lauriga’s wines are very aromatic and with typical regional characteristics. Today, Domaine Lauriga has become one of the P Mas vineyards.
The vineyard mainly uses the Cordon de Royat pruning system, has a planting density of 5,400 vines per hectare and a yield of 45 hectoliters per hectare. Grapes are both harvested by and hand by machine, and they use traditional methods to produce their wines.
DAY 6 :
The first stop：Domaine Lafage
The Lafage winery is located between the Mediterranean Sea and Corbiere mountains. The building is a stone house built in the 15th century.
The special feature of this winery is that it has a world-class winemaking couple at its helm: Jean-Marc Lafage and his wife Eliane. They have more than 10 superb wines with a score of 90 points or more from Wine Advocate Robert Parker within their porfolio.
Lafage winery currently has 160 hectares of vineyards, planting 16 varieties of grapes and producing 20 different kinds of wine, with average annual production of 700,000 bottles. 70% of its income comes from its export market. The winery itself has a complete wine production line and filling line. The soil in the vineyard is dominated by clay and chalk soil, and the mountain wind from the Northwest effectively reduces the temperature. It is a good environment for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet. Sauvignon).
The second stop：Lunch at Le Tire Bouchon
On this last stop the delegation said goodbye to Eric and Roussillon’s winemakers around a delicious meal.
The pleasing and fulfilling region tour came to an end. The delegation said goodbye while overlooking this ancient wine region, which is blessed by god and seems incomparably mysterious and vast. There are still countless legends and wines to discover, and the beautiful scenery is waiting to be explored again.