On my very first night in the beautiful Roussillon region, I had the thrill of the delightful Caroline Bonville, to be my host at the elegant four star hotel and restaurant Villa Duflot in Perpignan.
Caroline is the brilliantly talented winemaker at her very own Mas Karolina in the beautiful, rugged windswept hills of the Roussillon. And interestingly, Caroline – a very attractive and charming woman – has the same sort of rugged beauty one can best describe as pristine, fresh, and natural.
Caroline can be aptly described as an artisanal winemaker, and has a particular passion for Carignan, as well as the typical red grapes of the Roussillon (Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvedre. Her white wines made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, etc are crisp, dry, and fresh.
Mas Karolina encompasses 17 hectares and is located at the foot of the Pyrenees. The specific village is Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, and it is located in Maury, one of the two key AOP regions for high quality sweet wine that first became an appellation in 1936.
Like many of the producers I will meet on this trip, Caroline loves the sweet wine tradition and makes a lovely Vin Doux Natural. I personally love this style, and would happily drink it any time of the day. Most people think of serving this after dinner, but I think it can work with some food dishes. Many cocktail specialists are mixing this wine with tonic water to serve as an aperitif.
Though I adored Caroline’s sweet wines, it is her red wines that important because they absolutely reflect the specific terroir on which they are grown, as well as the rather wild landscape of the Maury region. When I think of Maury, the image of Maurice Sendak’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” because it the land is always described as being so rustic and animated.
Though this YouTube Video is in the French language, if you click on it you can see Caroline being interviewed against the dramatic backdrop of her land. In the video, she also describes the various soils such as Granite, Calcaire, and Schist (black and other colors) that give her wines such power and verve. Because of the Tramontane wind as well as the elevation of her vineyards, the wine is always fresh. Since 2007, the grapes for her high end wine L’Enverre has 70 – 70% of Carignan depending on the vintage. The grapes come a vineyard on Schist on the side of Rasiguères and other grapes from the red Marl soil in Maury. The wines are aged for a year in 500-lieter pieces.
Caroline’s grandfather created the original family vineyard in Champagne, but her winemaker parents moved to Entre-Doux-Mer in 1974. After graduating Oenology school in 1996, she worked as an assistant winemaker at Chateau Figeac (perhaps accounting for her elegant touch with her own wine) then she worked in vineyards and wineries around the world, including the USA and S. Africa. She is an artisan winemaker feels that Roussillon is the best place to make wine that really expresses the soil.
I loved the wines she poured for me, all intensely elegant with ripe concentrated fruit, power, and verve. I also love the flirty illustrations on some her labels (click to see them here).