While working in the late 1990s for a co-op in the French Catalonian Roussillon region, Philippe Gayral visited many small family estates, uncovering the best fortified wines and grapes that populate Roussillon in the foothills of the Pyrénées. Perhaps his most significant discovery was the personal reserves most families kept in barrels for themselves – what the French call a “poire pour la soif” or “a pear for thirst” – wines that were from important years in family history or saved for rainy days or just to see how a particularly fine vintage would age.
Over the course of the last 20 years, Philippe began buying these very special foudres, building up the largest collection of French Vin Doux Naturels in the world, and eventually founded Muse Vintage Wines in 2005. These wines are made in the traditional style with vinification that involves long aging in neutral barrels, fortification similar to Port (though the alcohol levels are generally slightly lower) and the use of glass bonbons, or demijohns, that are often left in the sun.
Called “the Archivist” by wine journalist Jancis Robinson, Philippe is passionate and meticulous. He has worked with the French government and authorities of the region to access all of the relevant information for each wine he is releasing, allowing him to precisely identify the family, origin, and vintage from which the barrels came. These extremely refined, traditionally fortified wines represent the very best wines in the region, covering three appellations – Rivesaltes, Banyuls, and Maury – with vintages spanning from 1874 to 2009.
Martine’s Wines is the exclusive U.S. importer for Muse with the following exceptions: LA, TX, MA