"Order my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback) DIRECT FROM ME SAVING £4/€4 (UK & EU only), or Kindle eBook on Amazon UK. Available in the USA from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook; or Amazon.com. For other countries, tap here." Richard Mark James
Showing posts with label Banyuls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Banyuls. Show all posts

04 December 2023

Roussillon: the south.

The final rant of 2023 about the Roussillon covers my favourites encountered earlier this year from the Côte Vermeille: mainly Collioure white wines (rosé is here), Banyuls Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) sweet fortified wines (including some old vintages), and neighbouring Côtes du Roussillon (white and red) that miss the Collioure appellation (of little importance apart from the price they can charge!).

06 September 2022

Roussillon: a dozen Vins Doux Naturels.

The fourth and final part of my summer Roussillon review features a (baker's) dozen Vins Doux Naturels (plural, VDN(s) for short), probably more naturally translated as (sweet) fortified wines, some of which are anchored in regional tradition while others are relatively 'modern'. Including whites - although their colour is often far from it for reasons explained below, a style called Ambré - and reds from Rivesaltes, as well as Maury and Banyuls, also white and red, of various types and ages.

01 August 2022

Roussillon - the south & centre: 16 reds to knock your socks off (part 2).

These plush reds represent more of my favourites from a recent Wines of Roussillon tasting in London (part 1: the north, is here). Featuring wines from 2019, 2020 and 2021 plus some more mature or rarer vintages produced by various wineries in the centre and south of the Roussillon, aka 'French Catalonia, wild wine country' as in the title of my book.

27 October 2020

ROUSSILLON ‘French Catalonia’ Wild Wine Country by Richard Mark James

This detailed book on the Roussillon wine region in deepest south of France, or far western French Mediterranean to be more precise, is available to order on Amazon as a paperback (with colour photos) and eBook (Kindle). Follow the link below to your 'marketplace' to read the blurb, get swept away and purchase a copy!
Or buy it DIRECT FROM THE AUTHOR (UK and EU only):

18 November 2014

Roussillon: Domaine Vial Magnères, Banyuls

It's that time of year perhaps when sometimes something a little stronger (fortified in the case of these aged "reds") and sweeter does the trick, and you can rely on the Roussillon region to come up with a Grenache-built blockbuster layered with complex flavours. Domaine Vial Magnères specialises in these, a small and very well-known family estate based in Banyuls-sur-mer, whose steep terraced old-vine plots rise up behind the town and neighbouring Port-Vendres, mostly making a good variety of these Banyuls styles including a white which, rumour has it, they were one of the first to produce. Bernard Sapéras has been in charge since the mid 1980s at this winery dating back to the 60s. More @ www.vialmagneres.fr where I copied the photo from.

Gaby Vial 8 year-old Banyuls (Grenache, organic; fortified to 15% abv) - enticing toffee and caramelised raspberry notes, lots of spiced liquorice too with complex baked red fruit and pecan nut combo on its yummy finish. Delicious. Dynamic Vines, London.
Another of their wines mentioned previously on this site:
Cuvée André Magnères 1996 Banyuls 'Grand Cru' - matched with "chocolate gianduja parfait with roasted pear and pecan, Banyuls syrup with pear and cardamom foam," (what?!) by 2007 Roussillon Dessert Trophy (click there for more info) winner Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

19 March 2014

Roussillon: Vinyer de la Ruca, Banyuls

The man behind Vinyer de la Ruca is the splendidly named Manuel di Vecchi Staraz, which wasn't a name I'd come across before. He only makes one red Banyuls vin doux naturel style, as far as I can tell, which, as it says on his website www.vinyerdelaruca.com: "Tot es fa a la mà," meaning "Everything is done by hand," from my limited grasp of Catalan. This even includes the quirky decorative hand-blown 650ml and 400ml size bottles, more like little demijohns actually, the Banyuls comes in. Rather steep though at €75 and €110 a piece (even if he does only make 1000 bottles and the wine is good), just like the sheer schist terraces the 50 year-old Grenache it's made from tries to grow on. These vines are farmed totally biodynamically using homoeopathic preparations, no machines, no added sulphites to the wine, aged in small tuns and all that jazz. Sounds / looks like a bit of a philosopher too, hence the suitably pensive shot I copied off his site:

2011 Banyuls - baked plum and liquorice notes, fiery punchy palate layered with sweet vs savoury fruit, complex flavours on top of attractive grip and texture actually, rich dark and smoky with tangy twist too. Nice style.

23 December 2013

Roussillon and Languedoc: "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate" (part 2)

Further to these recent words of wisdom on my WineWriting.com blog: Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate (goes there naturally), which also includes a little insight into fine chocolate making and the different types... Here are some more "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate," this time sourced from the Languedoc and the Roussillon. When talking about "wine with chocolate," many people - okay, wino people rather than normal people at least - think of rugged Roussillon country and its sometimes sublime red vins doux naturels or fortified sweet reds based on Grenache, especially Banyuls from the southeastern corner bordering Spain or Maury in the region's northern flank nudging up against the Corbières hills.

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel: mostly empty as this type of traditional 'oxidative' ageing is now only used for a small proportion of their Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) production. Photo: Vi Erickson.
Mas Amiel is arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (with suitably celeb prices to match, you might be tempted to add) and particularly well known for its old vintages. We were treated to their 1980 (in magnum no less, a special millennium bottling aged for nearly 20 years in demijohns and large casks beforehand; 16.5% abv) at the 'wine with chocolate' tasting event featured in the post mentioned at the top of the page (follow that link for more info). I've tasted this vintage before in situ (goes to profile and notes on MA penned in 2007, 2009, 2010 and updated earlier this year), although not sure if it's exactly the same wine, as that 1980 had one of their regular 'Millésime' labels, implying vintage style i.e. aged for a relatively short time in cask and the rest in bottle. In any case, the 1980 "millennium" was delicious and a fine match for the Co Couture chocs in front of us, especially the chilli flavour actually. Browning in colour with intriguing meat gravy vs liquorice nose, rich and concentrated with lush mouth-feel vs nice bite and developing savoury flavours; still alive with complex long maturing finish. Yum. £85 magnum.
Also from Maury, made by the worth-visiting Vignerons de Maury co-op winery found in the village, comes their Cuvée Centenaire (specially brewed in 2010 to celebrate 100 years, obviously; 16% abv), which was quite orangey brown with 'volatile' red-Madeira notes and sweet dried fruits vs meaty mature cheesy palate; particularly good with the ginger chocolate. About £23. More of their wines are HERE (St-Bacchus Awards) and probably elsewhere on the blog too. Banyuls was well represented by one of its top VDN producers Domaine du Mas Blanc with their 2000 Vieilles Vignes label (old vines; 16.5% abv): oxidised intricate mature-cheesy nose, lush vs savoury palate with complex toffee and dried raspberry flavours, long smooth finish. The plain choc and sea salt flavoured one almost freshened up the wine, not so good with the ginger though funnily enough. £27 approx. More on DMB HERE.
Moving on to a few 'regular' Roussillon and Languedoc reds, not deliberately tasted with chocolate (but might have been unintentionally) in recent weeks. Firstly, a pair from Naked Wines. Benjamin Darnault's 2012 La Cuvée Réservée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah; 14.5% abv, bottled in the Aude though?) is deep purple black in colour, a 'modern' style big fruity and spicy red; peppery blackberry with firm grip vs 'sweet' rounded palate, nice dry texture vs ripe berry fruit, liquorice and spice with punchy alcohol on its lively finish. Attractive good+ co-op level red, okay at £8.49 ('Angel' price) but not worth £11.49 ('normal': more here about Naked's pricing). Same could perhaps be said about their 2012 Le Petit Train Syrah (£8.25 or £10.99) made by Katie Jones, although this wine was apparently specially commissioned by Naked after Katie was sabotaged by some jealous thug, who broke in and poured away an entire vintage of her white wine. So, there's an "investment in people" type story behind it (as is Naked's self-acclaimed style generally). Anyway, it's a very nice red showing touches of sweet coconut oak layered with really ripe black cherry/olive even, soft fruity and rounded mouth-feel with a hint of herby spice vs a light bitter twist of tannins/acidity and blast of warmth. Kept well after opening too, turning softer with the oak less obvious and nice sweet black cherry/olive fruit vs light grip.
Finishing off in Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc back-lands, I've picked out just a few of my favourites from a trip last month, which were winners in a "Grand Cru selection" competition I was on the tasting panel for. CLICK HERE for my full-monty St-Chinian special supplement, which costs £3 (about €4/$4.50) as it's not viewable on this blog (emailed as a PDF). Features several leading estates (and places to eat and stay), including Domaines Canet Valette, Cambis, Jougla, Cazal Viel, La Madura, La Femme Allongée, Boissezon Guiraud, Milhau-Lacugue and more! In the meantime then...
Laurent Miquel Bardou 2008 (100% Syrah) – still quite toasty coconut with spicy dark fruit vs nice meaty edges, the oak melts into it adding a touch of chocolatey texture/flavour, nice tannins and concentration for a 2008; still quite young and structured with substance. Good stuff. €19
La Grange Léon D'une main à l'autre 2011 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache) - herbal red pepper, liquorice and perfumed white pepper; quite lush with ripe berry fruit, soft and approachable with bit of weight, freshness and length. Nice now. €16

Domaine la Linquière 310 La Sentenelle 2011 - lovely wild garrigue notes (= reminds of heathland flora!) plus sweet liquorice vs peppery fruit, soft tasty and quite elegant finish. €18
Borie la Vitarèle Les Crès 2005 (Mourvèdre, Syrah) - savoury touches vs dark cherry, nice 'chalky' tannins with a touch of freshness, tight and elegant, still relatively young really, lovely savoury vs liquorice and spice finish. €18.50

Above prices are cellar door in France, so these are all towards dear wines although among the producers' top cuvées; or would be in the UK, Ireland or US once you slap on eye-watering taxes!

07 August 2013

Roussillon: Coume del Mas update

Further to the latest blah blah on partner vineyard Mas Christine below (or click there), I've been following Philippe Gard's Coume del Mas estate for a few years now: click on that highlighted link for previous words and lots of wines reviewed on trips to the winery from 2007 to 2010). Wine-growing / making associate and resident Englishman Andy Cook was on hand earlier this year for a pan-European group tasting (yours truly plus winos from Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway...) of their, at the time, rather closed-up 2011s (this vintage is tighter and more elegant than say 2010 or 2009), and a few older ones too...
Andy talked about what they do in field and cellar as we sampled along, from bottle, barrel and tank. "We sort everything twice here... Picking usually starts in mid August (for whites) and on to mid October." They don't add acidity to the white wines; and the red grapes are "heated after fermentation and macerated to get more tannin - you can only do this with good fruit," he explained. More comments below as related to each wine. By the way, the background image to this blog is the view looking out from the CDM winery in Les Cosprons near Banyuls-sur-mer. And the photo below is of the village, also taken by Vi Erickson.

2011 Coume del Mas Folio white Collioure (Grenache gris, barrel-fermented) - toasty notes vs exotic fruit with floral apricot, concentrated honeysuckle flavours with a 'salty' tang, light oak grain vs rounded and full vs nicely crisp too. Good stuff.
2010 Special Edition white Collioure (14.5% abv) - toasted hazelnut vs floral and apricot/peach aromas/flavours, fairly punchy and rounded with a bitter twist; falls a bit short and flabby after that enticing start.
2011 Coume del Mas Schistes red Collioure (Grenache noir, 14.8% abv) - fermented in stainless steel with five weeks maceration. Aromatic sweet berry with peppery liquorice notes, closes up on the palate, tighter and leaner than I remember although has nice tannins and a bit of bite too. Should be tasting better by now though.
2006 Schistes red - savoury meaty edges vs ripe and peppery, concentrated and still quite tight and firm actually (though the bottle was very cold), perhaps less lush than other vintages although has that classic 2006 balance.
2011 red - a new blend, I think, of Grenache (50), Mourvèdre (30) and "90 to 100 year-old" Carignan ("It's older up the hill, and a little cooler at night.") only bottled a few weeks before I tasted it. Grainy and tight, concentrated for sure with nice ripe vs crunchy profile, a tad firm and solid at that time, not very revealing.
2011 Abysses Collioure (about 50-50 Syrah/Grenache, 14.5% abv) - they made four barrels of this red, new oak. Toasted coconut tones, concentrated and firm with good texture/structure, again tight and austere on the finish; too young at the mo, could be very good.
2011 Banyuls white Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache gris, fortified) - coconut touches layered with floral exotic fruit, toasty notes vs nice sweet apricot vs attractive bite, making it taste drier than its residual sugar would suggest (less than 100 g/l). "Picked about the same time as grapes for the dry whites..."
2011 Galateo Banyuls (macerated and fortified "sur grains" - before pressing - and aged in an LBV style, 120 g/l RS) - lovely fruity wine with black cherry/berry, sweet vs crunchy with attractive tannins and 'cut' vs that lush fruit; lovely.
2011 Coume del Mas Banyuls - delicious rich dark fruit, lovely tannins vs bite and a lighter side vs big and concentrated; hints of oak grain in the background, well-structured with fresh tannins. Yum, nice now but will age well.
2006 Banyuls (oxidative ageing) - lovely savoury and 'tar' aromas, sweet dried fruits with complex nutty backdrop, still has fresh bite of tannin too then savoury vs syrupy finish; looking good. "Might be bottled as a Grand Cru, although the EU is trying to ban this term!"

Their Consolation range is made from "the best selections" from CDM, MC and other partner wineries.
2011 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - yields of "three bunches per vine" and fermented in "open-top barrels with foot treading." Pretty toasty and closed up on the nose and palate, dark fruit lurking underneath on a fresh and firm backdrop, grainy oak vs concentrated and elegant too actually; needs time (I'm finding this with the 11 vintage).
2008 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - wild floral nose with black olive and meaty edges, powerful with a hint of freshness too, still firm vs maturing fruit, long elegant finish; lovely wine.
1996 Rivesaltes ambré 'Antic' (aged in old Armagnac barrels) - pruney yet tangy too, rich dried fruits and oxidized/aged characters vs still alive with nice bite, intense nutty finish. Good value for a complex old VDN: £12 / 50 cl.
2010 Wild Boar Syrah (14.5% abv) - complex maturing nose with rich dark cassis and black cherry, turning resin-y on the palate yet has herbal/reductive hints (?), pretty alcoholic too; that funny mix of herby/tart vs big and punchy lingers somewhat, a little unbalanced even if that sweet fruit and alcohol are slightly flattering...

If you want to have a look around their vineyards and taste in the cellar, best to give them a call as Andy and Philippe aren't always around here or at the CDM winery: contact details are on tramontanewines.com, where there's also a comprehensive list of importers and outlets worldwide...

04 July 2013

Roussillon: Abbé Rous, Banyuls-sur-mer

Abbé Rous is one incarnation of this well-known co-operative winery based in Banyuls-sur-mer (Cellier des Templiers is another), which they use for a certain wine range sold to independent merchants and restaurants & hotels, rather than say own-labels in the supermarkets etc. I've talked about some of their wines on FMW.com before...

03 November 2010

Banyuls & Maury: sweet seductive red Roussillon

New wine tasting & touring feature published on FrenchMediterraneanWine: "My pick of some (25) of these red (and a few white) Vins Doux Naturels or vins mutés, as they're called in French: literally "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines, tasted in early October on a whirlwind tour of leading estates in north and south Roussillon. Plus words on how these delicious Grenache based wines are made and their different styles." Featured wineries: Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza; and a new-release Maury from Mont Tauch...

01 November 2010

France: Roussillon - Banyuls and Maury, "sweet seductive red Roussillon..."

Wine tasting & touring: "Banyuls & Maury, sweet seductive red Roussillon..."
Featuring Mas Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza...

"My pick of some (25) of these red (and a few white) Vins Doux Naturels or vins mutés, as they're called in French: literally "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines, tasted in early October on a whirlwind tour of leading estates in north and south Roussillon. Plus words on how these delicious Grenache based wines are made and their different styles." Featured wineries: Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza; and a new-release Maury from Mont Tauch.

Demijohns outside at Mas Amiel, by Vi Erickson

Much as I like Port in its differing forms, what gives Banyuls and Maury (also named after the places they come from) the edge, for my palate at least, is the simple fact that they're a touch less alcoholic: 16%-17% (sometimes a bit more such as La Tour Vieille's sublime "Meditation Wine" reviewed below) as opposed to around 20% for Port. And it's difficult to resist the charm that seductive Grenache somehow brings to these Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs) or vins mutés: "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines. Anyway, as for a few educational words about these sumptuous stonking reds (mostly): I wrote the following paragraph previously in a blurb on La Coume du Roy, who produce pretty much all imaginable styles of Maury from "modern" to extremely old, which attempts to summarise the differences in grape handling, winemaking and maturation.
There are essentially two styles of Maury, on a basic level; in reality, there are almost as many as any producer wishes to make! (Ed: same principle for Banyuls, although clearly a different climate by the sea unlike Maury further north, inland and in a valley). Both use mainly the same variety: "black" Grenache as the French call it; and Macabeu, Grenache blanc and/or Grenache gris for the rarer white. The more (or less depending on the cuvée, release date etc.) oxidised aged one, where (for red) the grapes undergo a 4-5 day maceration on skins (or less even) and short fermentation to obtain some colour and desired sugar level; then are pressed and the juice fortified with spirit (leaving about 100 grams/litre residual sugar on average). The other style is said to date from around the mid 1980s: muté sur grains, meaning the entire must with the crushed berries still macerating in it is fortified, stopping fermentation with around 80-85 g/l RS; followed by 2 to 4 weeks maceration on the skins before pressing (avoiding contact with oxygen), which gives much richer colour and tannins. This type of "modern" Banyuls/Maury is usually bottled relatively soon, depending on the specific (sub)style you want - after a period in vat or filled-up barriques - and sometimes aged a little longer in bottle before release (so, technically similar to Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage Port, or Ruby for lower-priced blends), depending on if and how long in barrel. Whereas, the traditional approach is to mature the wine in large old casks and/or vats, and not usually topped up, or even glass demijohns outside, to promote oxidation; like e.g. Banyuls 'Grand Cru' or Tawny Port styles.

Entrance to Domaine de la Rectorie,  by Vi Erickson 

Pierre Parcé at La Rectorie in Banyuls-sur-mer (above) shed some interesting light on how the Parcé brothers, after taking on the family vineyards in the 1980s, came to influence the launch of those "new-wave" Banyuls VDNs. Paraphrasing his words: 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 and/or outside in demijohns even to promote oxidative ageing, to compensate for any faults and create complex flavours from the maturation process itself (as long as not left too long...)
The "new thinking" already gathering more momentum in the 80s went 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's were pretty much starting from scratch, they had no old maturing stocks like the big co-ops have always had (and some of their 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 get really interesting. After starting 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 begin with? The result: La Rectorie's extraordinary L'Oublée (see note below)...


To start, a word about wine "scores." You'll notice a departure from the usual "100-point" system proliferated across the site, as I just got plain bored of the latter narrow, although admittedly widely recognised, way of "assessing" wines. So, I've continued the schoolteacher theme here that I dreamed up a few months ago for a feature on the Ardèche, which uses a simpler scheme with one to three ticks, as below, echoing those already popular "star" ratings you see around. Still best to actually read my notes and comments at the end of the day, if that's not too dull. And, inevitably, I ended up giving some half-marks as well represented by a tick in brackets! These wines were sampled in October 2010 (unless stated otherwise) at the winery or at home.

√ = good √ √ = very good √ √ √ = fabulous


Scan down the Roussillon A to Z list for more wines and profiles on these producers including where to buy them. Prices quoted here are cellar door in euros or £ / $ retail in the UK or US.

Domaine des Soulanes 2009 Maury (Grenache blanc/gris with 90 grams/litre residual sugar (RS)) - enticing "mineral" vs sweet profile, could be interesting after a bit of time in bottle. √ €9 £11.75
Mas Amiel 2008 Maury (Grenache gris 110g/l RS, 15.5% alc.) - enticing mix of juicy, "mineral/stoney" and sweet aromas/flavours; fairly crisp and fresh underneath vs rich white/yellow fruits, a bit closed up but should turn into a very nice pudding or cheese wine. √ €15+
Domaine Serrelongue 2010 Maury (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc: from cask and not ready yet, obviously!) - lots of aromatic pear fruit, turning rich in the mouth with tasty honey notes vs refreshing acidity and cut; long finish with enticing zesty citrus vs sweetness (about 100g/l residual sugar). Should be good. √

Domaine des Soulanes
2009 Maury (Grenache) - lovely wild-fruit nose with blackberry and liquorice; good balance of sugar, dry tannins and cut of alcohol. √ €11 $24.99 £11.75
Maury "Hors d'Age" (Grenache blend of wines from 1992, 1993 & 1994) - complex toffeed ageing notes on the nose with lush liquorice coating in the mouth; very long and caramelised vs lovely savoury richness. √ √ $41.99
Mas Amiel
2006 Vintage Reserve Maury (Grenache) - seductively rich with savoury edges and light oak texture; again shows good balance of grip, lush black fruits and sugar; quite complex too. √ €20
L09 Vintage Privilege (Grenache passerillé = dried on the vine) - OK, so it's not technically Maury but... very raisin-ed and intense, intriguing and addictive too; pure blackberry and syrup aromas/flavours vs attractive dry tannins vs complex earthy tones. Wow, a one-off. √ √
Maury Prestige 15 Ans d'Age (Years Old on average) - beautiful "old Tawny" nose with molasses/treacle notes and cooked plums; meaty oxidised profile vs dark chocolate vs bite and cut vs intense "sweet/savoury" finish, roasted coffee and nuts too. √ √ √ €23
Click here for more Mas Amiel reviews and background including their superlative 1990, 1980 and 1969 vintages.
Domaine Serrelongue 2008 Maury (Grenache 80-90 RS) - lots of sweet black fruits underpinned by light wood texture, has nice freshness and tight tannins too making it quite restrained in style. €10 √
Domaine Vinci 2008 Inferno (Grenache 5 RS) - another non-Maury (and not even sweet, although it almost should be) sneaked into this feature, as "you know it makes sense." Very ripe and powerful nose, peppery and Port-y almost; crazy wine, punchy and rich with lots of liquorice and pepper plus a touch of underlying wood grain. Wow: very popular with the Brits, I'm told! A bit OTT on its own but worth a go, has plenty of flavour for sure in a dry Maury way! √ √ About €20 or £25
Cave Mont Tauch 2001 Réserve Maury (Grenache 16%) - treacle toffee liquorice and prune vs quirky "gassy" oxidised maturing nose with Bovril gravy, toasted coffee beans and leather tones; sweet smooth palate with a bit of kick (but not OTT) then more savoury finish with some lingering dry tannins. 2nd tasting (this wine kept quite well for a week, and the last drop was used for a very nice sauce): less "quirky" and "cheesy" with more toffee and raspberry cordial vs savoury/leather edges; smooth and sweet still with that light kick and touch of tannin, nice "sweet/savoury" finish. √ UK: £7.49 37.5cl at Morrison's.
Coume Majou 2008 Jolo Maury (98 y-o Grenache 17% alc.) - lovely dark fruits, damson and blackberry, beginning to turn tobacco-y; attractive bite and solid tannins, not very sweet actually with lively mouth-feel; a bit fiery at the moment but it's a delicious concentrated "vintage" style Maury. Tasted in March 2010. √ √
Mas Mudigliza (tasted summer 2010)
2008 Maury - delicious ripe black cherry fruit with savoury leather edges; tannins softening up nicely although still has good bite vs sweetness (75-80 g/l residual sugar = less than many Maurys), youthful fiery finish vs lovely balance of "sweet/savoury" fruit. √ √
2009 Maury (from tank) - very black cherry and liquorice, more intense and lush with nice peppery touches; tasty sweet vs dry finish, promising.

Domaine La Tour Vieille 2008 Banyuls (Grenache blanc & gris) - nutty and honeyed with integrated wood grain tones; attractive fruit and texture vs punchy alcohol, sweet vs "mineral" finish. Promising. √ €10 50cl
Domaine La Rectorie L'Oublée (Grenache gris 16.5%): pressed straightaway, fermented then fortified, 10+ years ageing in large tuns then barriques outside before bottling. Quite brownish/red in colour, 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. √ √ √

Domaine La Tour Vieille
2006 Banyuls Vendanges (mostly Grenache) - lightly oxidised with meaty edges vs damson and liquorice; plum jam flavours vs savoury and quite mature finish. √ €10 50cl
2006 Banyuls Rimage mise tardive (three and a half years in casks filled up to the top) - spicier with more coconut oak apparent vs rich "sweet/savoury" fruit; grippier more powerful mouth-feel then quite tight on the finish actually, surprising young still and impressive. √ √ €15
Banyuls Reserva (4-5 years ageing) - more caramelised nose with cooked raspberry jam aromas, kind of Madeira/Tawny cross springs to mind; big tannins still vs rich fruit, complex tasty and savoury finish although it's pretty sweet though too. √ √ (√) €13
Cuvée Francis Cantié - roasted coffee beans and strawberry jam on the nose, pretty intense in the mouth with nuttier characters then a bit more of a kick too; but that attractive "sweet/savoury" thing takes over and it's surprisingly subtle in the end. √ √ €15 50cl
Vin de Méditation (Solera-style, 18%) - amazingly intricate "red Madeira" nose, very intense and nutty; sweet raspberry and pecan nut flavours, finishing with very different profile to that initial nose as new aromas/flavours keep rolling across your tongue. Wow. √ √ √ €50 50cl
Coume del Mas
2007 Galateo Banyuls (Grenache, 16% & 100g RS) - lovely black fruits with meaty edges; attractive fruity "winey" flavours and texture, still firm and powerful softened by cherry liqueur notes and sweetness. Available in 6cl or 10cl flasks. √ €15 50cl
2007 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache, 16.5% & 80g RS) - richer, more complex and a touch oakier with more savoury / oxidised edges; more oomph and extracted lush fruit vs big tannins adding dry bite, closes up on the finish. √ √ (√) €26 50cl
2009 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache low-yielding 70-80 year-old vines, barrel sample) - deep purple/black colour, still showing a bit of toasty chocolate oak vs very rich "Black Forest Gateau" fruit; solid firm mouth-feel, almost "fresh" despite its sweet finish balanced by grippy tannins. Lovely. √ √
Domaine La Rectorie
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
2007 Cuvée Léon Parcé Banyuls (Grenache 16.5%) - initially same winemaking as above 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. √ √

Related features:
St-Bacchus Awards 2009 including a trio of star Banyuls/Maury co-operative wines: "Camille Descossy" Le Dominicain, "Mise Tardive" Cornet & Cie, "Vieille Réserve" Vignerons de Maury.
Other recommended Banyuls and Maury producers on my "Roussillon - French Catalonia" pages: Berta-Maillol, Mas Blanc, Calvet-Thunevin, Fontanel, Mas Lavail, Clos Paulilles, Piétri-Géraud, Pouderoux, La Préceptorie, Saint-Roch, Schistes, Traginer.
A few more sexy red VDN stylists under the Rivesaltes appellation: Caladroy, Casenove, Cazes, Comelade, Hylari, Puig-Parahÿ, Rossignol, Rouaud, Sarda Malet, Valmy, Vaquer.
More generic info @ www.roussillon.wine

All rights © Richard Mark James November 2010

31 January 2010

Roussillon: Domaine du Traginer, Banyuls-sur-Mer

UPDATED Dec 2012

No-nonsense Jean-François Deu is very proud of his organic status (since 1997 officially) and philosophy – some wines have no added sulphites too – combined with certain biodynamic farming methods (he doesn't go along with the full-monty "witchcraft"), which seem to nicely match his laid-back manner, ironic sense of humour yet uncompromising standards. The result is an edgy yet classy range of wines going from his pure and floral site-blend Collioure red, to the peppery more refined Cuvée du Capitas single-siter and delicious late harvest Banyuls ‘mise tardive’ (late bottled). Jean-François spends long hours out in his vineyards (best to ring his mobile number if you want to see him personally, although you can taste the wines in his shop from spring to autumn) working the soil and stimulating the vines' natural defences by applying various biodynamic herbal remedies. He’s also trying to make things less labour intensive by "mechanising" some of the work, which isn’t an easy task in the area’s mostly narrow, terraced and very steep vineyards. Actually, that's a little bit of a joke; he uses a mule and plough, which is a touch easier on the back no doubt!

Jean-François Deu hard at it
from www.traginer.fr

I tasted and reviewed these wines and vintages at Millésime Bio organic wine show in Perpignan and Montpellier in January 2008, 2010 and 2012. Click here for older Traginer vintages (Millésime Bio 2006) and read on for 2010 and 2012 updates. UK specialist merchant Stone, Vine & Sun lists some of his wines.
2004 Cuvée Capitas, Collioure rouge – ripe and raisiny with aromatic dark plum tones, concentrated and chunky showing a touch of oak and alcohol, rounded v grippy finish. 90-92
2006 Cuvée al Ribéral, Collioure rouge – liquorice and spice notes lead on to a concentrated inky palate, closes up on the finish although has lovely underlying black fruits. 89-91
2005 Collioure rouge – coconut spicy oak is quite prominent at the moment, but this has lovely depth of fruit v solid tannins. 90-92
2003 Cuvée d'Octobre, Collioure rouge – more raisiny and smoky, light old wood spice otherwise firm v ripe mouth-feel. 88
2006 Banyuls Rimage – fruity pruney nose with youthful fruit v grip v sweetness on the palate; very nice style. £17.95 90
2003 Banyuls Grand Cru – much more oxidised, Tawny style with complex maturing tones; good but personally prefer the Rimage wine. 89

Update 2010: Jean-François was, as always, present, earthy, philosophical and good-humoured at the increasingly big Millésime Bio tasting held in Montpellier. I seem to have overlooked his star white wines somehow:
2008 Collioure blanc (Grenache blanc, Grenache gris) - hazelnutty and fino-edged nose; dry mineral mouthfeel, very intense with refreshing length and concentrated, lightly exotic vs spicy fruit. 87+
2007 Collioure blanc (Grenache blanc, Grenache gris) - more mature (obviously), attractively appley and fino in style; lovely nutty vs creamy palate with incisive long finish. 88+
2007 Collioure rouge - sweet, perfumed, garrigue aromas (kinda wild herbs etc.); delicious spicy fruit vs underlying grip, elegant vs powerful. 87-89
2006 Cuvée Capitas Collioure rouge – rich and smoky with lush dark fruit and spicy oak in the background; liquorice "sweetness" vs meaty flavours / texture vs proper grip, concentrated and powerful yet fine length. 90+
2004 Cuvée Capitas – turning savoury and meaty, attractive elegant vs rich fruit, ripe and soft vs still firm finish. 87-89

2012 tasting update

2010 white – peachy yet nutty too, intense mineral characters vs rounded texture vs crisp tight finish. Very good.
2007 Cuvée Octobre – ripe sweet fruit with lavender edges, turning savoury too on the palate, intense spicy finish though.
2008 Cuvée Capitas – quite savoury and leather-tinged, structured and punchy mouth-feel, very powerful finish; a tad unbalanced.
2009 Cuvée Al Ribéral (no added SO2) – lively wild fruits and scorched heather/lavender undertones, 'volatile' edges too but it works well here, intense long finish. Very good.

01 June 2009

Roussillon: Domaine du Mas Blanc, Banyuls-sur-mer

Latest HERE featuring their 2000 Vieilles Vignes Banyuls tasted with fine chocolate (December 2013)...

Jean-Michel Parcé puts together quite a diverse range of traditional reds (mostly Collioure) and Vins Doux Naturels, sourced from different plots lying in first-rate sites around the Banyuls-sur-Mer area, which usually age well - he doesn’t tend to release them until he thinks they're ready. Jean-Michel, whose winery and cellars are located right in the town centre, has been at the helm of Mas Blanc for over 30 years continuing the pioneering work done by Doctors Gaston (grandfather) and André (father) Parcé. So, a few generations of Doctors (Who?) then, for those of you who don't know them and get the tangential "joke" ((w)ho (w)ho).
On the Banyuls VDN front, he makes just about every style imaginable (and a couple more besides), which makes Mas Blanc a good place to learn something about these distinctive wines. For example, his ‘Rimage’ La Coume, built from rather old Grenache, is intensely "sweet and sour"; and Colheita-style ‘Excellence’ impressive, quirky and complex. As for Collioure reds, Clos du Moulin (the name of the vineyard, pic. above) is made from about 80% Mourvèdre supplemented by Counoise and is something of a solid meaty forte; and his half-Syrah Cosprons (again, a single vineyard site) is rich, smoky and savoury. Jean-Michel has also started producing more whites (e.g. the promising ‘Signature’ below) and rosés, as well as a few balsamic-style Banyuls vinegars (see website at bottom for details).

Spring 2009:
2008 Signature white Collioure (Grenache blanc Marsanne Roussanne & Tourbat) - exotic fruit and banana notes lead on to zesty citrus vs a touch of yeast-lees creaminess, finishing with nice fresh mineral length. €12.50 87-89
2006 La Llose red Collioure - already turning smoky and savoury with minty herbal undertones and nice cassis fruit too; tangy vs soft mouthfeel with subtle concentration, attractively lively and firm vs easy and supple on the finish. €9 87
2004 Cosprons Levants red Collioure - smoky leather touches although still a bit closed up surprisingly; maturing ripe resiny fruit vs hints of wild herbs on the palate, enticingly elegant savoury and tasty finish. €18.50 89+
2004 Clos du Moulin Collioure (mostly Mourvèdre) - meaty black olive aromas with dried fruits too; attractive elegant palate showing a lush savoury side vs firm but accessible tannins, dry yet quite fine finish. €23 89+
2005 Les Junquets Collioure (mostly Syrah) - very cassis nose although perhaps a tad reduced; cleaner palate, pretty solid at this stage with 'sweet' vs herbal fruit, tight closed up style but give it 1 to 2 years. €28 90
2006 Rimage Banyuls - oxidising meaty edges vs nice intense sweet raspberry vs dry grip all lending good balance. Still young. €21 87+
2004 Collita Banyuls - more liquoricey with dried / cooked fruits, spicy too vs firm textured, lush and sweet vs meaty leather tones. €15 88+
Cuvée du Docteur Banyuls - more oxidised with toffee and sweet nuts; oily texture vs dry grip, nice traditional style with a warming Christmas pudding finish. Just what the, erm, Doctor ordered (groan). €13 89+
1998 Vieilles Vignes Banyuls - maturing "cheesy" aromas, intricate and savoury; rich toffee vs again that dry texture, nutty and long. Yum, all comes together nicely. €30 92+
2000 Excellence Banyuls "Colheita style" - unusual nose showing toffee, banana, caramel and baked Brazil nuts with an interesting "herbal" backdrop; sweet vs structured and punchy mouthfeel with delicious "sweet & savoury" mix, dry grip vs liqueur-like flavours. Wow. €35 92-94
Hors d'Age Sostrera Banyuls ("solera" style) - really oxidised and sweet, very complex and Madeira like although more raspberry syrup; again firm palate yet minty or something too, fine mature wild cheese notes then structured and still lively finish. A one-off. €45 92+
This "bin-end" was found in a LeClerc store (north Perpignan), early summer 2009 (I assume as it was only €5 and bottled with a screwcap, so I doubt originally destined for French supermarkets):
2005 Les Piloums Collioure rouge (13.5%) - attractive mature supple style with dried, smoky, savoury fruit; lacks a bit of substance and class but quite a bargain though. 85

And this is what I said back in September 2005:
2003 Banyuls blanc (Grenache Blanc Malvoisie Muscat d'Alexandrie 16.5%) - Unusual bromide nose leads to minerally palate, finishing more Muscaty and aromatic; good balance of alcohol and residual sugar. 85
2001 Banyuls Rimage, la Coume (Grenache Noir 17.5%) - Fairly oxidised nose (intentionally) showing lovely spicy 'garrigue' fruit with perfumed wild flowers, attractive grip of tannins v sweetness with good bite and length. €38 92-94
2001 Clos du Moulin, Collioure (80% Mourvèdre + Counoise) - Lovely ripe smoky complex nose with sweet berry, liquorice, mushroom and lavender; soft v structured mouthfeel, dry texture with bite of tannin and acidity layered with rich wild raspberry fruit, subtle elegant length and concentration. 90-92
2003 Mosaique, Collioure - More up-front and straightforward than the Clos Moulin, ripe blackberry fruit then quite structured closing up a little on the finish; again shows richness v elegance v firmness. €15 87+

9 Avenue Général de Gaulle, 66650 Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel: 04 68 88 32 12, www.domainedumasblanc.com.


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.