“Roussillon has the potential to be as great as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhône.”
So says Michel Chapoutier, oenologist, biodynamic farmer, famed Rhône winemaker, and head of Maison M. Chapoutier whose Bila-Haut wines from the region provide a testimony offering excellent wines at an affordable price.
“All great wine regions have a high diversity of extremely complex soils,” points out Chapoutier.
Intrigued by Bila-Haut’s mix of schist, gneiss and clay, in 1999 Chapoutier bought the neglected 190 acre Roussillon property located on the slopes of the Agly Valley in the commune of Latour-de-France near the Spanish border.
Roussilon is surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the Mediterranean. Rugged, rocky, and full of aromatic shrubs like rosemary, thyme, juniper, and lavender, the land rises steeply above the Mediterranean challenging those who try to farm it — including the Greeks who established viticulture in the region many years ago. Others who lived in the region include the ascetic religious-military order known as the Knights Templar; Bila-Haut served as a refuge for the Knights and the cross on the label honors their history.
Unlike the landscape, the climate is mild: the Mediterranean mitigates harsh weather, with cool winters and hot dry summers with the famed Mistral winds during the growing season creating ideal conditions for Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, which Chapoutier suspects may be better than in the Rhône Valley, and the dry climate means fewer plant diseases making it easier to farm sustainably.
These factors certainly contribute to Roussillon having the most organic and biodynamic acreage in France! In the past 10 years, organic and biodynamic production has doubled in size to over 20% of production, according to wines of Roussillon.
A passion project for the fourth generation oenologist and amateur chef, Chapoutier has designed Bila-Haut’s three Les Vignes de Bila-Haut wines to pair well with food and conversation around the table:
“I’m focused more on length and aftertaste than on the nose, because the wine is meant to be married with food.”
Be on the lookout for the rose as well as the Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Côtes du Roussillon Villages which is full of blue fruit and herbal savoriness, typical of he region, and is an easy drinking Syrah-dominated blend, with a balance of Grenache and Carignan.
Well known for its red wines, wineries in the Côtes du Roussillon also make white wines — but only 4% of the grapes are white in the region says Chapoutier.
That 4% is the focus of this month’s French #Winophiles hosted by Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest. Read on for our thoughts about Chapoutier’s white blend which we paired with fresh wild local halibut, and continue on to links to other posts about this wine — which is easy to find in the US and affordable –as well as wines discovered by others. You’re invited also to check out out 8am Pacific twitter chat; questions that guide our conversation are shared below.
2017 M. Chapoutier “Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc” Côtes du Roussillon
abv SRP $15
The 2017 vintage of M. Chapoutier “Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc” Côtes du Roussillon blends 50 % Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne, 20% Macabeo, and 10% Vermentino (Rolle). Some grapes grew in limestone, clay soils and gneiss in the Agly Valley while others from granite soils at higher altitude at 500m in later ripening sites. Harvested early in the morning by hand to protect aromas, the wine was tank fermented and aged.
Color: Pale lemon
Nose: Lemon chiffon, very soft nose, slight petrol, lime, light scent of white flowers including honeysuckle, sea fresh, peach, steel.
Palate: The blend of grapes brings tingly acidity up front of the palate on the tip of the tongue, viscous and glycerol as it glides through the mouth. Along with a lovely mouthfeel, the wine offers nectarine and citrus on the palate making for an easy drinking light summer wine.
Pairing: No surprise to us, but fantastic with oysters, very fresh and refreshing. The salt in the oyster brings out the fruit in the wine. We paired this wine with a lemon butter halibut with roasted zucchini, The wine loved all the herbal lemony garlic flavors in the dish, and the halibut showcases the wine nicely: the mild fish is subtle and the wine is relatively subtle so neither wine outshines the other, and the wine brings out the texture and high quality. of the fish, and the fish brings out the delicate character in the wine. The lemon butter sauce is a fantastic compliment to the wine.
Check out who else did what this month:
- 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.
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish tells us about Biodynamics and the Butterfly Effect: A Labor of Love in 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.
Twitter chat discussion questions as suggested by our host Lynn for July 17, 2020 on Roussillon White Wines:
- 11am ET: Welcome to the French #Winophiles chat on #Roussillon white wines! Introduce yourself & where you’re tweeting from. Share a link to your site! #Winophiles
- 11:05am ET: Some folks mentioned difficulty locating a wine. How was your experience? #Winophiles
- 11:10am ET: Languedoc & Roussillon areas were joined in 1972, & Languedoc accounts for 90% of the wine. Do you think this joining adds to the difficulty of finding Roussillon wines? #Winophiles
- 11:15am ET: What did you discover about the area or its wines in your research? #Winophiles
- 11:20am ET: Some people tasted dry white wine while others a sweeter style. Share your wine and tell us about it. #Winophiles
- 11:25am ET: What surprised you most about the #Roussillon wine(s) you tasted? #Winophiles
- 11:30am ET: Descriptors can tell us a lot about a wine. What is the first word (or two) you use to describe #Roussillon white wines? #Winophiles
- 11:35am ET: In the crowded field of sweet wines Roussillon is often overlooked. Have you ever tasted one from this region? If yes, tell us which one(s). If no, were you aware of these wines? #Winophiles
- 11:40am ET: For those who paired your wine with food, tell us about it- successful pairing? Photos please! #Winophiles
- 11:45am ET: Ever visited Roussillon? If yes, tell us the highlight of your trip. #Winophiles
- 11:50am ET: #Winophiles any final thoughts about #Roussillon white wines?
- 11:55am ET: Join #Winophiles next month (Aug 2020) with host @jillbarth at https://jillbarth.wordpress.com/ Stay tuned for her invitation article!
- 12:00PM ET: Thanks for joining the July #Winophiles chat!
- 12:01pm ET: Shout out to the July #Winophiles bloggers @Culinary_Cam @WendyKlik @foodwineclick @GrapeExp_Cindy @allison_wallace @winingwithmel @linda_lbwcsw @vignetocomm @CrushGrapeChron @SideHustleWino @theswirlingderv @CorksConcierge @ArtPredator @tsteffes Payal at https://keepthepeas.blogspot.com/