The vineyards of Banyuls
sit on abrupt terraces that cling to the slopes of the Pyrenees as they plunge towards the Mediterranean. Covering 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) near the border between France and Spain, the vineyards extend into the villages of Banyuls sur Mer, Collioure, Port Vendres, and Cerbère. The annual production here is 9,500 hectoliters of Banyuls and about 3,500 hectoliters of Banyuls Grand Cru. The soil is Cambrian grey schist.
The white wines of Banyuls are made from Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, and the reds from Grenache Rouge and Grenache Gris. Both colors are made in dry, off-dry, and sweet styles. Vinification is either direct press or with maceration, and wines may be matured in barrels of various sizes (foudres, barriques, or demi-muids), large glass containers called bonbonnes, or bottle. With time, they reveal a rich palette of colors and aromas, and some wines offer the famous “rancio” flavor that comes from long aging under oxidative conditions. These characteristics are beautifully expressed in the wines of Domaine de la Rectorie, Domaine Coume del Mas, and Domaine du Mas Blanc.
There are several types of Banyuls wines. “Traditional” Banyuls, which is the most common and an emblem of the region, are brick red wines that are matured under oxidative conditions for many years. Produced only in great vintages, Banyuls Rimage (meaning “vintage”) undergoes fortification during maceration, then a further long maceration for extraction; to keep them fruity, fresh, and powerful, they are bottled early (6 to 12 months after the harvest). Vinified according to the same principle as Banyuls Rimage, wines labeled “Mise Tardive” (late bottled) are matured for one to three years in barrels that are regularly topped off in order to soften the tannins and refine the aromas, which become marvelously complex. The last style, Banyuls Blanc, has a brilliant straw-yellow hue and a nose of floral notes melded with citrus and white fruit. The best cuvées traditionally undergo a longer élevage to make Banyuls Doré (golden) or Banyuls Ambré (amber).
More informations on the website of the wines of Banyuls