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Wines of the Pyrenees

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Straddling the south western border of France and Spain the rugged terrain and temperate local climates produce a diverse array of wines, the quality of which are constantly improving whilst maintaining their attractive price. From the Basque white wine Txakoli grown on the fertile hillside surrounding Getaria on the Atlantic coast, to the wines of the Banyuls appellation on the Mediterranean coastline there is a wine to whet all pallets.

The roads that wind through the many vineyards give the countryside a special charm. They are often bordered by signs offering free sampling and wine for sale. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to take up the offer and the wine growers are normally passionate about their produce, delighted to show you around and offer you a taste of their wine. Of course, it will probably cost you a few euros as you will no doubt walk out with several bottles under each arm, but there is no better way of enjoying a bottle than the one that you have sought out and are proud to have unearthed.

Across the Pyrenees there will be familiar names and some new appellations to discover. Near the Atlantic coast the countryside has largely been preserved from the ravages of time and has long produced its own characteristic wines; reds, whites and some rosés including Irouléguy, Rioja, Txakoli Jurançon ,Madiran and Pacherenc.

Hugging the Mediterranean coast, the wine growing areas of Languedoc Rousillon and Catalonia are some of the oldest and largest in the world. Dating back to prehistoric times the Languedoc Rousillon vines were originally cultivated by the Greeks whilst the Catalan vines were brought by the Phoenicians. It was during the Roman occupation however that the vines were first cultivated seriously.

Corbieres is considered to be the most important appellation in the Languedoc Rousillon region producing mainly dense, herby red wines and a small amount of rose and white. Other notable appellations include Côtes du Roussillon, Limoux, Collioure, Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls.

Catalonia's most famous region (Denominación de Origen) must be D.O.Cava, producing the Spanish version of Champagne. Other notable D.O’s include Penedès and the newcomer Montsant. D.O. Priorat, in the province of Tarragona nearly died twenty years ago because no one pictured a future but now stands above the rest of Spain as home to some of the world's classiest and most expensive reds.

Wine Regions of the Pyrenees

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Wine RegionColourAgeing Ability
Blanquette de Limoux White 1 to 5 yrs
Banyuls Red, White 2 to 30 yrs +
Collioure Red, Rose 5 yrs +
Corbieres Red, Rose, White 2 to 10 yrs +
Cotes de la Malpere Red, Rose 2 to 5 yrs +
Fitou Red 3 to 10 yrs
Jurancon White XX
Limoux White XX
Maury XXX 1 to 30 yrs
Minervois White 2 to 4 yrs
Muscat de Rivesaltes XX Drink early