Côtes Catalanes

Côtes Catalanes is one of the most important IGPs in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, covering the Pyrenees-Orientales departement on the border with Spain. Vineyards cover the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees mountain chain, an area also used for the Côtes du Roussillon, Banyuls and Collioure appellations. The IGP exists to provide a geographic indication for wines that are made outside the existing AOC vinification requirements or permitted styles.

The IGP is departmental, but also topographical: its catchment area extends from the peaks of the eastern Pyrenees down to the Mediterranean coast. This covers a wide range of terroirs that can be broadly described as Mediterranean, with garrigue-covered hills and a hot, dry climate. The poor, dry soils are well suited to viticulture, as they force the vines to struggle for survival, and low rainfall leads to a concentration of flavours in the grapes.

Most of the vineyards of the area lie on east-facing slopes that are open to marine influences. Sea breezes help to refresh vineyards during the hot, sunny days, and winds from the snow-covered caps of the Pyrenees cool vineyards at night, ensuring grapes develop acidity along with flavour.

A wide range of grape varieties are permitted for use in Côtes Catalanes IGP wines. The classic Mediterranean varieties – Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan – dominate the wines made under the denomination, and as such enjoy the best vineyard sites. International varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are planted in the lower lying areas where more fertile soils are not as conducive to vine quality.

Côtes Catalanes is one of France's more productive IGPs, although many more wines are made and sold under the AOC-level Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages appellations. Most wines claiming the Côtes Catalanes IGP can also claim the department name Pyrenees-Orientales, a geographical indicator which excludes the separate (and much smaller) Côte Vermeille IGP.

The area was previously covered by the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes denomination. Since 2009, the Vin de Pays category has been phased out of French wine law, to be replaced with the more image-conscious Indication Géographique Protégée classification.
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