Saturday Tasting: The lovely in-between place of Roussilon

I like strange in-between places. The undefined. But most people prefer named destinctions. In France you find the French, but what about the Oxitans, the Bretons, the Basque? In Sweden you find the Swedes, but what about the Sami people? In Italy, yes, they are Italians but I wonder if you have ever tried to convince a Sardinian that he is Italian?
Just by looking at the passport, you are probably right, but language and food is the real teller. Regionality is getting stronger and stronger on mainland Europe, as borders are practically fading (coming from Hungary, trust me I can tell you what a real border is, or at least what a real border was…).

Regionality is a cultural category. Or at least culture creates the cohesion that defines a region. The best definition I’ve heard was given by an Alaskan ex-policeman, who went to Finland to become a professor in social studies. “Culture is the way we do things round here” – that’s what he said. And to be fair, he is damn right.

“The way we do things” pretty much includes everything. The way you talk, the way you dress. It defines what you eat, what you drink. It directs you how to cook your food, and how you make your wine (or brew your beer, distill your vodka, ferment your soju etc…).

There is a region called Roussilon in France near the Spanish border, that one could easily mistake to be French. In wine terms sloppily most of the times it is mentioned together with the Languedoc. As soon as you taste these wines, you won’t make that mistake. These wines are not french in terms of style. The ones they resemble mostly, are the heavy chunky reds produced in the other side of the Pyrenees, in Catalonia. because the Roussillon is pretty much French-Catalonia.

So all that you learnt about the structure and the weight of the French wines – just forget it. You can call the Grenache a french variety, as you find it everywhere in the Rhone valley, and in the South. But these guys use Grenache Noir, that has more to do with the Garnacha, grown on the other side of the Pyrenees. This is an exciting, perfect inbetween land.

I was very happy when we met Charles Perez-Lagravere in Bordeaux this summer. he is a perfect Roussillon winemaker, his wines are massive, full bodied, and heavy, full of dark red fruit, a perfect example of Roussillon Grenache Noir. Come and have a taste of his 2009 Mas Becha Classique on Borough Market on Saturday and see for yourself.

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