Roussillon is often dismissed as a mere extension of the Languedoc, part of the world's largest vineyard, where quality has traditionally been sacrificed in favour of sheer quantity, the resulting wine good only for distillation. But this ignores two significant facts. One is that, like the Languedoc, the climate and poor soils offer enormous potential for quality, should producers choose to exploit them. The second is that Roussillon does have a long and proud tradition of quality winemaking, but of sweet, fortified wines that the French have traditionally kept for themselves. It is only in the last 30 years, with drinking fashions shifting dramatically towards drier, lower alcohol styles, that quality producers have started to announce their presence on the export markets, with a new generation of rich, spicy reds and exotic dry whites from local grape varieties.
Domaine Sarda-Malet is one of the leading estates in the region, and offers a wide range of products, encompassing both the new styles and the traditional Vins Doux Naturels. In the family for over a century now, the Domaine is currently run by mother and son Suzy and Jérôme Malet, who are continuing to build on the fine reputation established by the late Max Malet. They are blessed with well-located vineyards on ideal soils, planted with quality grape varieties which have reached a good age. Yields are as low as 20hl/ha from the Terroir Mailloles sites, and the winemaking features temperature control and intelligent use of new oak where appropriate.
As well as these fine wines, Sarda-Malet continue to offer a wonderful selection of Vins Doux Naturels. The Muscat de Rivesaltes is light and fresh, and somewhat drier than Muscat de Beaumes de Venise - delicious as an aperitif or with dessert. The ruby and Vintage Rivesaltes borrow ideas from Port, but again feature lower alcohol levels. Most traditional are the aged Rivesaltes, rich and complex wines that compete favorably with the best old Tawny Ports, and sell for criminally low prices.