The Côtes du Roussillon is one of France’s sunniest and warmest wine growing regions, with a climate and history that has more in common with Spain, its neighbor to the west, than its French cousin, the Languedoc to the east. The sub-region Côtes du Roussillon Villages is bestowed upon twenty-five villages to the south of Corbières, along the Agly River.

Principle red grapes are Carignan, along with Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre – only red wines are allowed to be made in Côtes du Roussillon Village, with Rosé and White wines allowed elsewhere in the appellation. Principle white grapes are Macabeu and Malvosie and produce wines that are a perfect match with seafood and shellfish.

Château de Caladroy is a well-known producer in the region, with several bottling. The Cuvée Les Schistes represents their entry-level wine and at an average per bottle price of $18.99, before the discount, the wine is good value in a superb vintage.

From the Vintage 59 web site:

In its heyday, Château de Caladroy was a small outpost high in the arid hills behind Perpignan. It had its own school, workers’ quarters, stables, an elegant 19th century chapel, a manor house and other dwellings, and an ancient fortress dating from the 12th century—for Caladroy was once a fortress on the ancient Kingdom of Majorca’s frontier. All of this is perched on a knoll; below, on a broad saddle of a ridge, grow the vineyards.

Although the school no longer functions and the workers’ quarters lie empty except at harvest, the chateau and its surroundings are striking. You drive up from Perpignan, a city which has a whole lot more in common with Barcelona than it does with Paris, and climb winding roads into the hills where the sparsely populated land is rocky and covered with scrub hardwoods and the ever present garrigue. At the top of the last rise, the road turns onto the saddle of vineyards; at the far end, beyond a windbreak of cedars, rises the Caladroy knoll with white buildings and red clay-tiled roofs. Looming in the distance are the snow-capped Pyrenees.

This is Roussillon, the sunniest viticultural area in France, forever battered by a dry wind that sweeps off the high Pyrenees known as the tramontane. Fully exposed at over 1,000 feet above the nearby Mediterranean, Caladroy and its vineyards occupy the top of the Fenouillèdes hills, isolated between two river valleys. This altitude gives Caladroy’s wines a certain measure of finesse that nicely balances their darkly concentrated flavors.

Today the vineyards have been extensively replanted, with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre dominating. Yields here average 25hl/ha, far below the permissible 45hl/he granted the top “Côte du Roussillon-Villages” AC designation. Moreover, the cellar was completely revamped in 2001, enabling cellarmaster Jean-Philippe Agen to make some super wine.

My tasting note:

Earthy nose with black cherry, menthol and briarwood hints – classic southern France. Medium-to-full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannin – good balance. Dark fruit core with black cherry, rose attar and tarry notes. Long finish – smooth with  dark chocolate and cocoa dust. Lovely. Drinking well now and should improve with another 3 to 5 year in bottle.

Cheers!

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