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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wines




Although France is the largest export market for port wines from Portugal, in the south of France - more specifically, in Roussillon province - it is not acceptable to even say the word "port." The reason for this unspoken prohibition is an age-old jealousy.


The locals claim that they are the pioneer producers of fortified wines - or vin doux naturel (natural sweet wine), as they call it - having developed the technique to make them more than 700 years ago.


Surrounded by mountains on the coast of the Mediterranean, the Roussillon climate and conditions are ideal for growing grapes. It is no surprise then, that the region's wine-making tradition dates back to the 7th century B.C. The foundations of the tradition were laid by the ancient Greeks, and the locals have carried on the tradition.


The natural sweet wines of Roussillon are among the most subtle fortified wines in the world. Unlike other sweet wines, such as Portuguese port or Spanish sherry, these French wines are fortified with the purest neutral alcohol which emphasizes the wine's original beauty rather than lending it a fruity taste. This circumstance, by the way, links Roussillon natural sweet wines closer to the best of the strong dessert wines of Crimea, which are produced by similar methods.


Alexander Dumas, known not only for his writing abilities but as a connoisseur of fine food and wines, considered Roussillon's vin doux naturel to be among the best in the world. These sweet wines are usually consumed at a tender age; they may not have had the opportunity to age and develop a more complicated bouquet, but they preserve the delightful brightness of their pleasant aroma. The younger wines run $15 to $20 a bottle. Wines that have been allowed to mature to a riper age can cost as much as $50 per bottle.


Vin doux naturel is particularly good served with fruity desserts, however some gourmands find they are the perfect compliment to a nice foie gras or some blue cheese.