Wine of the Week

Roussillon’s Unique Rancio Sec from Domaine Fontanel

Rancio Sec is an old tradition in France’s Roussillon region, though it nearly disappeared from the market by the mid-2000s. Its popularity began to wane after the INAO created the appellations of Banyuls and Maury in 1936; the regulations decreed that wines taking the AOC must be fortified with the addition of alcohol, in the style of Portugal’s Port wines. Historically, however, Rancio Sec wines come by their higher alcohol levels naturally. Made from late-harvested grapes, they are simply left to spontaneously ferment until dry—a process that could take months to years. To age the wines, the vintner might move the wine into different-sized barrels or glass demijohns, and put them outside, into “parking lots,” or stick them in a breezy section of the cellar where the fluctuating temperatures and wind would encourage oxidation and aging.

Rancio Sec ages in the Roussillon sun Rancio Sec ages in the Roussillon sun

Today, inspired by Slow Food International’s 2004 declaration of Rancio Sec as an endangered viticultural tradition, many producers are reviving the practice. The Collets are one of the newest to take up the practice, inspired by a cask of Rancio Sec dating to 2007 that they found at Domaine Fontanel, a 74-acre estate they purchased in 2016. They began making their own Rancio Sec in 2018; in the meantime, they’ve bottled the 2007 to share with the rest of the world. Former owner Pierre Fontaneil based it on the fruit from two vineyards planted in 1908 and 1944 (mostly grenaches gris and blanc, with some macabeu, malvoise du Roussillon, carignan blanc and other varieties mixed in), and aged the wine in partially-filled oak casks. Bottled in May 2018, the golden wine remains impressively fresh, with notes of salted cashews, saffron and curry leading toward a center that’s plump and juicy with spicy pineapple flavor. Silky and lifted, it feels alive, with profound depths of umami-laden flavor to explore in the company of duck confit or miso-glazed black cod.

Haus Alpenz, Edina, MN

Domaine Fontanel 2007 Côtes Catalanes L’Ancêtre Rancio Sec, 500ml


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