Banyuls, a natural sweet wine emblematic of Roussillon
The Roussillon vineyards are distinguished by their large production of natural sweet wines (VDN). Alongside Rivesaltes and Maury, Banyuls AOC is one of the spearheads of these "mutated" wines. At the foot of the Albères massif, in the Pyrénées-Orientales, the vineyard benefits from an exceptional terroir and climatic conditions. The old vines overlook the sea from steep slopes and narrow sunny terraces. Powerful, round and extremely long, Banyuls is a wine particularly appreciated with desserts.
General presentation of the appellation banyuls
To the south-east of Perpignan, not far from Argelès-sur-Mer, the Banyuls appellation area encompasses the last coastal communes before Spain: Banyuls-sur-Mer, Collioure, Cerbère and Port-Vendres. The 1,750 hectares of vines are spread out on the steep slopes of the Côte Vermeille, at the eastern end of the Pyrenees mountain range. Between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, at the foot of the Albères, the vineyard benefits from unique conditions for the maturation of the grapes.
Several AOCs are produced on this land, starting with the AOC Banyuls. This gives rise to mainly red and rosé natural sweet wines; whites are much rarer. The AOC Banyuls Grand Cru is only available in red. It meets a more restrictive set of specifications, particularly with regard to maturation, which is set at a minimum of 30 months, compared to 10 for the AOC Banyuls. Finally, in the same geographical area, the AOC Collioure is produced, a dry wine available in all three colours.
Grenache noir is the king grape variety of this vineyard in the Pyrénées-Orientales. In a Banyuls, it makes up at least 50% of the blend; in a Banyuls Grand Cru, at least 70%. Alongside it are other emblematic grape varieties of the region: Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Macabeu, Malvoisie and Muscat. Some additional grape varieties are authorised, such as carignan, cinsault and syrah.
Characteristics of Banyuls
Dense and full-bodied, the red Banyuls wines are sometimes ruby, sometimes tile, sometimes mahogany brown. Their powerful aromatic palette highlights ripe grapes, black fruit, kirsch and cherry. Over the years, it evolves towards aromas of roasting, coffee, leather, nuts, cooked fruits, cocoa...
Banyuls Grand Cru AOC wines are distinguished by their tile or mahogany colour, sometimes with brown or tawny nuances. The aromas are numerous and complex, always expressive and elegant: cooked and dried fruits, prunes in brandy, tobacco, leather. This palette is enriched by notes of cocoa, coffee, roasting and spices.
The white Banyuls have a brilliant golden yellow colour. Pear, exotic fruits, acacia honey and wild fennel dominate the bouquet.
The method of maturing the wines is also important in defining their characteristics. Banyuls rimage are aged in a reducing environment, protected from the air, unlike traditional and Grand Cru Banyuls, which are aged in an oxidising environment. The rimage label thus designates young wines whose fruity aspect is preserved: aromas of red fruit, kirsch and cherry in particular.
All these Banyuls AOC wines have a very good ageing potential, lasting several decades. Only the rosé wines of the appellation can be enjoyed young.
How to taste a Banyuls
Full-bodied, rich and with a velvety texture, Banyuls are often recommended as dessert wines. They go well with chocolate, coffee and fruit desserts. These natural sweet wines from Roussillon also go well with blue-veined cheeses. Banyuls is also recommended for foie gras. Finally, it is customary to drink it while smoking a cigar.
Banyuls AOC is generally served at a temperature of between 12 and 14°. White Banyuls is best served cooler, at around 8°.