Photo Courtesy of PHB.cz (Richard Semik) | Shutterstock
To fully appreciate a wine is to be intimately familiar with its geographical origins and vinicultural heritage. Wines from France's Roussillon region certainly exemplify this truism. Vineyards are surrounded by three mountain ranges yielding wide topographical variety and soils — the Corbieres to the North, the Pyrenees with Mont Canigou to the West, the Alberes to the South, and to the East ocean and mountains meet below on the Pyrénées-Orientales (widely referred to as an amphitheater to the Mediterranean's cooling breezes). Three rivers, the Agly, Tet, and Tech carve through valleys, each providing a unique terroir graced each year with at least 2,500 hours of intense sunlight. Sweeping down from the mountains, Tramontana winds naturally deter vine diseases that befall even the best run vineyards elsewhere.
Greek seafarers from Corinth, settling in the welcoming inlets of the Côte Vermeille, were the first to take advantage of the Roussillon's unique geographical features (with vines taking root in 7th century B.C.). Up through the Middle Ages, home vineyards commonly produced raisined wines (over-matured or honey added versions), adding special herbal and spice mixtures elevating them to the status of ‘nectar’, the mythical drink of the gods notably celebrated by Catalan troubadours. These early influences can still be tasted in today's sweet wines, like Rivesaltes Ambre varietals.