Here in the Roussillon, I had the great pleasure of being hosted for a wine tasting at Les Clos de Paulilles, on a beautiful stretch of vineyards skirting the coastline between Port Vendres and Banyuls.
While here, my host, Tom Warner, showed me around the grounds. I knew of Les Clos de Paulilles from their wonderful Banyuls, a wine that I have enjoyed often in Collioure. Banyuls is a Grenache-based dessert wine that is made in a way that I haven't ever seen.....
After picking the grapes at a luscious, over-ripe stage, the harvest is fermented, but the fermentation is stopped thanks to the addition of a neutral spirit....sounds a little like Port, doesn't it?
In fact, Banyuls is often regarded as France's answer to port.
But then it takes an interesting turn....The Banyuls is placed into glass demi-johns and stored outside for two winters and one summer....
I have toured lots of wineries in lots of regions, and I have never seen glass demijohns of wines sitting in the sun quite like this.
Tom Warner explained to me that this causes a violent oxidization process; the wine loses its color and becomes orange-yellow, in a marmalade-y kind of way. Then, it spends 8 to 10 months in a barrel, where it regains its color--deep, orange-brown. The process lends fascinating spicy, nutty, candied-cherry appeal to this complex wine.
I have been drinking lots of Banyuls down here, let me tell you. While it is considered a dessert wine in the US, it is often an aperitif over here--a wonderful way to kick off an evening. Serve it well chilled, of course.
Or, try it in a way I just discovered on this trip.....in Banyuls sangria. I don't have an exact recipe, yet, but I'd say just make your usual red-wine sangria and add Banyuls instead of whatever spirit you usually use. I promise to develop a great recipe once back home.
The two Banyuls made by Les Clos de Paulilles are Banyuls Rimage (which, I should mention, does not undergo the demijohn treatment, but is a fine Banyuls and somewhat widely available in the U.S.). And Banyuls Cap Bear, which does undergo the Demijohn treatment, but is more difficult to find.
And if you happen to be coming this way, head to Les Clos de Paulilles--they do wine-tastings, and they have a lovely ferme-auberge (roughly, a farm-to-table restaurant) where you can dine and enjoy the full line of Les Cos de Paulilles wines with food and a view of the sea. Find out more at http://www.clos-de-paulilles.com/
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