Exploring the Wines of Roussillon: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures of Southern France

Exploring the Wines of Roussillon: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures of Southern France

In the very south of France, along the Mediterranean coast, you'll find the region of Roussillon. Sometimes called "French Catalonia", it has a storied history dating back to the days of the ancient Greeks and Phonecians. In modernity, it's home to a vibrant blend of cultures.

Roussillon also produces some of the finest connoisseurs' wine in France.

To garner a full appreciation for this region and its underrated wine industry, one must first look to the region's past for an understanding of how modern Roussillon came to be.

History of Roussillon

Roussillon takes its name from Ruscino, the ancient capital city of the region. It first appears in recorded history in the year 218 BCE. The legendary Carthaginian general Hannibal passed through the city on his march toward Rome.

This was a pivotal moment in Hannibal's campaign, to the extent that Roman emissaries beseeched the people of Ruscino to oppose the general's advance. Yet their pleas fell on deaf ears. Hannibal continued his advance unabated.

Though Ruscino played only a small role in this conflict, the incident set the tone for the next thousand years of its history.

Over the ensuing millennia, the unassuming seaside region was the site of great strife. The region was variously occupied by the Romans, Alamanni, Vandals, Visigoths, and Saracens. In 859 CE, Northern raiders razed the ancient city, necessitating the formation of modern-day Roussillon.

Roussillon served as a staging ground during the Crusades. The region would then become a point of contention between the French, Spanish, and the native Catalans.

Although Roussillon is still ripe with political division, regions marked by such violent histories often cultivate an appreciation for peace. And you can read a desire for serenity in their vibrant wine-making tradition.

The Connoisseurs' Wine of Choice

Officially, Roussillon is joined with the adjacent region of Languedoc in a single administrative area. Despite their close proximity, their cultures and history are quite distinct. And that makes for notable differences in the wines they produce.

Only about 10% of the GSM wines produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon zone come from Roussillon. But that 10% accounts for some of the very best French wines.

Many of these Roussillon wines come from old vine vineyards. Old vines produce much smaller yields, but their wines benefit from more robust flavors. If you were to shop for Grenache wines online, you would want an old vine variety.

That's not to say that all of the wines from this region are dark, bold varietals. Roussillon is well-known for many of its lighter, sweeter varieties.

Roussillon's rosé wines are now becoming extremly popular. Few things are quite so refreshing on a balmy Mediterranean afternoon. If you're seeking rosé wines online, you'll do well to remember the fine libations of Roussillon. 

Exploring Southern France Wines

When most people think of France, they imagine the vineyards of Bourdeaux or the sweet whisper of French champagne. But the southern coasts of France and Roussillon produce some of the finest connoisseurs' wine anywhere in the world.

Many Roussillon GSM wines are particularly good choices for the sweltering summer months. But they're far from your only choice. For more summer fine wine options, check out our list of the best pairings for your next summer barbecue.