In the eastern region of the Pyrenees-Orientales (the eastern Pyrenees), Côtes Du Roussillon is an appellation designed for dry white and red wines in sweet wine country. The red wines here are made to be spicy and medium bodied, with Grenache the most commonly used grape variety, alongside Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre. The AOC rules stipulate that red wines use three types of grape, with no more than 60 per cent Grenache, and with the two main varieties making up a maximum of 90 per cent of the total blend. The whites often use Macabeu, among other grapes. This is the sunniest part of France, and has a variety of terroirs to suit different grapes. The rocky slopes of clay limestone provide the perfect conditions for Syrah, while soils of schist and marl are capable of bringing out the best flavours in Grenache.
The sub-appellation of Côtes Du Roussillon Villages is just to the north of Côtes Du Roussillon, and is exclusively for red wines produced in 25 villages along the Agly River. These reds are generally more powerful, with an even greater level of terroir expression.
Under the pounding heat of the southernmost point of the French mainland, Roussillon’s appellation of Banyuls is best known for its sweet Grenache-based vins doux naturels. Its 1,000 hectares of vines are mainly found on steep terraced slopes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, just next to the Spanish border. The soils are made up of schist, and the terraced walls of black schist are constantly being repaired to prevent the soils from being washed away. The vineyards of Banyuls are dotted with olive and almond trees, two of the few plants able to withstand the aridity of the soils.