With the growing interest in all things “natural”, wine geeks have discovered Rancio Sec, which has been made in the Roussillon for over two thousand years. This minimal-intervention, oxidatively-aged wine (once only made in minute quantities and brought out by the winemaker – on special occasions – for friends and family) is now enjoying something of a cult following thanks to its umami-driven style.
Unlike other fortified wines from the region, Rancio is classified as dry because all its sugars have been fermented into alcohol. Harvested from old-vine grapes (usually Grenache and/or Maccabeu, but other grapes are also permitted), then fermented with native yeasts, “rancio” refers to the wine’s ageing – for a minimum of five years – in partially filled barrels, or in glass demijohns, an environment that favors oxidation. During the first year, they are sometimes left outdoors (thus subjecting them to sun and high heat), then brought indoors to continue ageing. The wines concentrate via evaporation and their acidity initially drop then slowly rise, thus allowing the wine to avoid spoilage as it slowly oxidizes. This oxidative evolution is responsible for the complex range of notes and aromas (walnuts, hazelnuts, toasted nuts, vanilla, licorice, curry spices, cocoa, buttercream) that characterize a dry Rancio.
Though not what one would consider a “food wine”, Rancio Sec is appreciated as an aperitif with tapas, tapenade or salted anchovies, can be enjoyed with Comté and dry goat cheeses, and pairs perfectly with Asian food thanks to its Unmami taste. Rancio Sec can easily replace a Cognac or Armagnac as an after-dinner drink. And it is even said to heighten the enjoyment of a cigar