Guide to Banyuls and Collioure Wines
Bordeaux, Champagne, Rhone, Burgundy . . . many of France’s wine regions are well-known by both wine connoisseurs and the average wine lover. Yet for every one of these well-known regions, there are several under-the-radar regions producing fantastic and classic French varietals. Banyuls, a wine region located in Southern France, is one of these regions. Get to know the unique wines of this beautiful region, which includes the wine-producing region called Collioure.
Banyuls is a 2,500 acre wine French wine region (an appellation d’origine contrôlée, or AOC) located just north of the Spanish/French border and overlooking the Western Mediterranean. The AOC extends to wines made in four communes (Banyuls, Cerbère, Collioure, and Port-Vendres); however, the AOC takes it name from one of the regions, Banyuls. The Banyuls AOC was established in 1936 and is known for having some of the most strict growing standards for French AOCs.
A reference to “Banyuls wines” is typically a reference to the sweet, fortified red wines (called vins doux naturels) made predominantly from Grenache Noir. However, the region also produces high-quality white, red, and rosé wines. White wines are typically made from Grenache Gris or Grenache Blanc.
Banyuls vineyards are often located on steep, coastal hillsides; these conditions often require harvests to be completed by hand. Wines often possess a minerality from the region’s coastal location and mineral-rich soil.
Banyuls fortified wines
Banyuls red grapes are harvested in the fall, when they have reached a high level of natural sweetness, and are then fermented whole (without being pressed). The result is a wine with a high alcohol content (roughly 15%) that undergoes mutage (the process of adding sulfur or alcohol to stop the fermentation process). Without mutage, the yeasts would continue fermenting and produce a wine of up to 19% alcohol content. Wines are then barrel aged for a minimum of 12 months; Banyuls Grand Cru are aged for a minimum of 30 months.
Since mutage halts fermentation before all sugar has been converted to alcohol, the wine is left with a residual sugar that creates a sweetness on the palate. Banyuls wines often have aromas of baked strawberries, prunes, and sweet spices. Enjoy a fortified red Banyuls before dinner as an aperitif (which is how it is often consumed by locals) or pair it with aged cheeses after dinner.
Since Banyuls is both the name of the region and also the name of a commune, there can be some confusion regarding the denominations of this region’s wines. This is often the case with Collioure, which is a village within the Banyuls region (and a neighbor to the commune of Banyuls).
Collioure red wines must be 60% Grenache Noir, Syrah, or Mourvedre; the remaining 40% must be Carignan or Cinsault. The wines have soft, silky tannins and notes of spice, which makes them perfect for more delicate dishes such as stewed rabbit, braised chicken, and seared duck.
Collioure white wines are made from Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris and are full-bodied and perfumed. The full-bodied white wines from Collioure hold up to fried seafoods: enjoy these wine (and the region’s rosé) with crab cakes, fish tacos, seafood paella, or fried calamari.