Curious Case - June 2022 - Along the Pyrenees


The mountains that separate France and Spain run through regions in both countries that have been producing wine for centuries. From Catalonia on the Mediterranean across to the Basque country on the Atlantic side there’s a pretty diverse range of styles and types and we’ve decided to focus on some of these for our June 2022 Curious Case. Although geographically a part the area we’ve left Rioja out since it’s such an important area it really justifies a future Curious Case all to itself. And we’ve used a bit of poetic license to stretch things slightly and go as far as Galicia on Spain’s northwest Celtic fringe, but we reckon our choice here complements the selection nicely.

Looking at the reds we’ve picked a meaty red from Roussillon in French Catalonia which is rich, dark and spicy and great with red meats. Next we’ve gone for a gloriously gluggable number from the Armagnac area of southern Gascony. It’s bright and fruity, perfect for everyday drinking and ideal with a plate of charcuterie. Thirdly, there’s a rich and fragrant Aragonese blend from arid high-altitude vineyards on the Pyrenean southern flanks. It’s wonderfully sweet scented and with a paella is superb. For the three whites, we’ve gone firstly to Jurançon and chosen one of the region’s distinctively tangy, dry whites which are certainly having their moment just now. Staying in France and moving east to the Catalan coast near Perpignan our second white is an intense, citrus and peachy made from local grape varieties and is great on a relaxing summer’s afternoon. To round off we’ve stretched things westwards all the way to Galicia to include a wine that’s long been a favourite of ours. It’s, again, made with a local grape variety and while very drinkable it’s also got a pleasing complexity.

So there we have it. Do give our Pyrenean selection a try we think they showcase what this part of the world excels as well as being easily enjoyable wines for this part of the year.

Domaine Lafage 'Centenaire', Cotes du Roussillon

In a nutshell: An intense, fresh and minerally southern French white from the Catalan coast near Perpignan.

The lowdown: Often considered red wine territory, the impressive Domaine Lafage also make some top notch whites from their vineyards around Perpignan and the foothills of the Pyrenees. This one made with 80% Grenache Gris and 20% Roussanne from vineyards near the sea in Canet en Roussillon certainly deserves plenty of attention. Mostly aged in stainless steel, 30% spends time in new French oak barrel which gives extra texture and complexity. On the nose it's full of citrus, peachy and floral aromas which follows nicely on the palate together with a subte hint of spice. Medium bodied, it has a good length and rounds off with gentle, fresh finish.

When to drink: With it ripe, round flavours it makes good stand-alone drinking and also goes nicely with grilled fish, or poultry dishes.

The Flower and the Bee Treixadura, Ribeiro

In a nutshell: A very drinkable, fruity and complex Spanish white from the north eastern region of Galicia.

The lowdown: This delicious Galician white is made from 100% Treixadura which is a grape only really grown in this part of Spain and northern Portugal (where it's know as Trajadura). Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel this makes a lovely full flavoured wine with vibrant citrus and orchard fruit aromas. With a soft, rounded and generous nature on the palate the rich fruit flavours together with a slightly oily, creamy texture and a fresh, crisp finish of ripe citrus fruits and minerals make this a very interesting wine indeed.

When to drink: With its balance of freshness and fullness this is great to pair with seafood and tomato sauce based dishes.

Domaine Cauhape L'Eclipse

In a nutshell: A great fresh and ripe citrusy white from the Jurançon in South West France.

The lowdown: Domaine Cauhape are based in the heart of the Jurançon famed for producing distinctive tangy whites, as well as sweet wines, for centuries and while Cauhape have only been around since the 1980s they are firmly regarded as one of the best producers in the region. Their 'L'Éclipse' cuveé is a blend of local variety Gros Manseng and the incredibly rare Lauzet grape of which there are only a few vineyards in existence and though only labelled a Vin de France it takes nothing away of the complexity and quality of this wine. Pronounced aromas of ripe citrus, white stone fruits and spice lead onto a crisp and refreshing palate with a real depth of concentration to the lemon citrus, stone and tropical fruit flavours, all with a slightly spicy, tangy edge.

When to drink: The wine will open up and develop over a few hours to the following day. Perfect as an aperitif or with tapas, works well with sushi, shellfish and lightly spiced Asian cuisine.

Le Lesc Rouge 2020

In a nutshell: A bright and fruit filled red from South West France.

The lowdown: Made by the ever dependable Producteurs Plaimont this excellent Gascon red is an honest, fruit driven blend of Tannat, Cabernet and Merlot. It has a fresh cherry crunchiness and hint if white pepper spice.

When to drink: A trusty and reliable everyday drinking red great with a plate of charcuterie and crudités.

Fidele 'Soleilla', Maury Sec Rouge 2019

In a nutshell: A rich, dark and spicy French red from the northern Roussillon.

The lowdown: The appellation of Maury in the Roussillon of South West France, just west of Perpignan, has for decades produced some of the best 'vin doux natural' sweet wines in France. Whilst still dry wine has been made there forever it was only in 2011 that they were officially allowed to label it Maury Sec, and while the production is still pretty small these dark and deep reds have gained a reputation as some of the best full-bodied reds in France. A blend of 80% old vine Grenache from the Soleilla vineyard perched high on the black schist steep terraced slopes of the Valleé d'Agly and 20% Carignan from 100 year old vines on the summit of the plateau.

Dark and rich aromas of kirsch, blackberry and plum enhanced with notes of garrigue, rosemary and fennel. Full-bodied on the rounded palate with firm tannins, fresh acidity and notes of cassis and dark chocolate joining those ripe fruit flavours.

When to drink: Perfect with something like a mixed grill or any big red meat dish. Still young so try decanting before serving and will also have capacity to age through this decade.

El Risco, Calatayud 2020

In a nutshell: A rich and fragrant Spanish red blend from hot and arid Aragon.

The lowdown: The name of this wine, El Risco, which means 'the crag' is a reference to the rugged Aragonese terrain in the high altitude vineyards of Calatayud where the old bush vines that go into this wine grow. A blend of Syrah, with a dash of Garnacha and Bobal the winemaking here was very simple. A small proportion of whole bunches underwent a seven day maceration and subsequently the wine was aged for a few months in tank before being bottled without any fining and a light filtration. The result is a sweet-scented fresh and lively wine with a wonderfully fruity character.

When to drink: An easy drinking, versatile red that's good with things like pasta, paella and casseroles, or just by itself.

Along the Pyrenees Curious Case