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08 October 2010

Roussillon: Domaine de la Rectorie, Banyuls-sur-mer

The Parcé brothers Marc, Pierre and Thierry have built up this old family estate into something approaching cult, although they wouldn't like that nomenclature. Marc in particular, as president of the Collioure growers' association and a countrywide lobby group called Sève, is very committed to shaping the appellation's future and promoting it beyond the region. Click here for info on that and some of his views, from an article I did for Decanter magazine (scroll down to "Straining at the leash"). They've also created a partnership with La Préceptorie de Centernach near Maury (see A to Z list) by setting up a joint sales & distribution company. 
La Rectorie covers about 27 ha/70 acres, in as many different sites, making mainly red Collioure - and increasingly a flavoursome white and famously deep-coloured rosé - although over the last few years Banyuls production and sales "have steadily increased." Before that, the Parcés "almost gave up" on VDNs because of appellation politics and the type of wines and quality that appeared to represent its name. They were also part of a small band of pioneers of "new" Banyuls, such as "vintage" or "rimage" styles (originally, now everybody's "doin' it," so to speak) using winemaking methods that favour youthful fruit and big structure, rather than overly oxidised, pale and thin wines. Read on for my autumn 2010 update with a bit of background and explanation on that from Pierre Parcé. And it's worth clicking on the link below to their website: it's got some nice black and white pictures on it (an example used here taken by keen photographer Pierre (copyright), following in the footsteps of his grandfather). 

Here are notes on some of their sensuous Collioure & Banyuls wines tasted in March 2007:
2006 L'Argile Collioure blanc (14.5%) - barrel sample: milky toasty edges to its lovely honeysuckle fruit, powerful mouthful, concentrated and big; a bit hot on the finish but very interesting style. 88-90
2006 Côté Mer Collioure rosé (Grenache Carignan Counoise Syrah 14%) - very creamy and rich raspberry/redcurrant style, oily texture with a tart edge; nice fruity finish with fresh acidity and punchy alcohol. 87-89
2005 L'Oriental Collioure rouge (Grenache based, 15%) - a little closed to start, violets and blackberry fruit develops, powerful yet has gentle fruit concentration; firm framework with long rather alcohol dominated finish, pity as it has lovely fruit/tannin layering, would've scored it higher. 89-91
2005 Côté Mer Collioure rouge (14%) - more savoury v delicious pure fragrant and spicy black cherry fruit, better balance, length and style. 90-92
2005 Côté Montagne Collioure rouge (14.5%) - more structured and backwards than above, concentration and power but also freshness and lively length. 90-92
2005 Cuvée Léon Parcé Banyuls (Grenache 16.5%) - meaty and chocolatey with lively spicy black fruit combo, sexy coating and panache. 90-92

La Rectorie update October 2010

Pierre Parcé greeted us warmly at the family house cum tasting room in Banyuls-sur-mer and laid on a very nice tasting, accompanied by a few great stories to go with their wines. Paraphrasing and summarising his words, before taking up the family vineyards in the 1980s, the brothers used to come here on holiday as children and teenagers. Pierre remembers trying a non-fortified red wine made by their great-grandmother for family and friends' own consumption, as no doubt others had done for decades, although these were of course "humble" table wines not VDNs. So, in a way for them, there already was a "precedent" for this style of red that would later be the base of the Collioure appellation.
Pierre also shed some interesting light on how they came to influence the launch of those "new" Banyuls styles. Firstly, by understanding some of the reasons why the traditional oxidised styles continued to be made and history behind them. Part of the reason was the totally isolated nature of many of the area's vineyards at that time with no access roads. This often dictated having to pick all the grapes in one spot in one go and loading them up in a cart under the hot sun, while everything was picked; as it was just too awkward to go back and forth to the cellar several times to unload. Hence, when the grapes did finally arrive, they weren't exactly in the best health; so the skins were discarded quickly by pressing off the must after a short time fermenting, if at all, and fortifying it as soon as possible. The resultant low-colour wines were then aged for long periods of time, in big old casks that weren't topped up or outside in demijohns even to promote oxidative ageing, to compensate for any faults and create complex flavours from the maturation itself (as long as not left too long...)
The "new thinking" already gathering more momentum in the 80s was along the lines of "what if..." Given that grapes could now be delivered to the cellar as and when you wanted them, coupled with much better equipment and technical winemaking know-how; meaning the skins are in perfect condition and can be fermented with the must, like making a regular red wine, to extract colour and tannins. This must is then "muté sur grains", i.e. the fortifying spirit added onto the fermenting berries before pressing. This has an added advantage, as alcohol actually promotes greater extraction while the must is left to macerate. After pressing, the juice is typically, depending on the desired style, protected from oxygen by transfer into inert tanks before bottling or into barrels that are kept filled to the brim. These wines are thus similar to vintage or late bottled vintage Ports, for example, rather than the long cask-aged, oxidised styles that are closer to Tawnies.
Another simply commercial reason for developing young fruity "muté sur grains" Banyuls wines, was to be able to sell them much sooner. As the Parcé brothers were pretty much starting from scratch, they had no old maturing stocks like the big co-ops have always had (and some of these wines are very good, it has to be said); and it obviously takes a lot of time and investment to store VDN wines for as long as it takes before they're really interesting. After getting the ball rolling, and extending the above-mentioned winemaking logic to those old-fashioned Banyuls styles (and, as I said, sometimes just plain too old); what if they made a deliberately oxidised, complex wine using grapes that were in perfect condition to start with? The result: La Rectorie's extraordinary L'Oublée...

2009 L'Argile white Collioure (Grenache blanc gris 14.5%) - lightly toasty and spicy vs apricot and peach aromas; tighter and more "mineral/salty" in the mouth vs rounded and slightly creamy, juicy pineapple too and quite subtle finish despite its fair weight. 87+
2009 Côté Mer Collioure rosé (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - deep pink/cherry colour with "vinous," ripe strawberry/raspberry nose; big and rounded mouth-feel, very fruity and textured. Made by 12-14 hour skin contact followed by barrel fermentation! 87-89
2008 Côté Mer Collioure (Grenache Syrah Carignan 14%) - lovely aromatic floral and spicy nose with red/black cherry; quite firm, fresh and crunchy on the palate vs ripe tannins and "sweet" fruit; closed up elegant finish. 87-89
2008 Côté Montagne Collioure (Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre Syrah Counoise) - richer spicier and "earthier" with wild flower nuances; tight mouth-feel with fairly firm tannins, again quite restrained and closed up to finish. 89-91
2008 Banyuls Rimage "mise précoce" (Grenache 16.5%) - which means early bottling: after fortifying "sur grains," this had a further 2-week maceration on skins then pressed, held in vats briefly then bottled. Delicious dark chocolate and black cherry with violet aromas too; rich and sweet vs firm and spicy, nice lush vs tight and grippy finish. €11 50cl. 87-89
2007 Cuvée Léon Parcé Banyuls (Grenache 16.5%) - initially same winemaking but then goes into (full) casks for 18 months. Similar fruit profile but meatier / more savoury; chunkier tannins too somehow although rounder as well, nice sweet vs structured mouth-feel with chocolate undercurrent. 89-91
L'Oublée (Grenache gris 16.5%) - pressed straightaway, fermented then fortified, 10+ years ageing in large tuns then barriques outside. Quite brownish/red in colour, very very different nose with nutty (walnut/pecan) vs dried raspberry/apricot/sultana profile; nutty tangy vs sweet raisin and sultana flavours, delicious complex and lingering finish. 91-93 
65 avenue du Puig del Mas, 66650 Banyuls sur mer. Tel: 04 68 88 13 45 / 06 82 67 04 10 (Pierre Parcé)www.la-rectorie.com.

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