The Pyrrénées fall straight down the Mediterranean in a particular rugged mountain site : vineyards are taking place in these sheer schist slopes. Arid and poor, slopes are so vertiginous that we sometimes need a mule or cableway to bring back the crop.
Vines are planted on eroded schist slopes, the ground is just 20 to 50 cm thick (degraded clayous sands) right on the mother plate.
To survive, roots has to dive as deeply as possible to resist to the drought. Erosion is permanent worry : generation of winemakers created “peu de gal” from Catalan language : rooster‘s foot (ditches to canalize water) and « agulles » channel to collect water during the heavy autumn showers, terrasses or low walls to preserve from erosion.
Fighting against erosion is an every day life : drought and torrential rainfall amplify the slope effect. It’s not exceptionnal to observe winemaker hauling back hearth to the top of terrasses.
Very dry summers are succeeded by violent rainstorms in autumn. Winters are dry, springs are more humide : 600 mm of rain from march to septembre (with sometimes 200 to 400 mm in 1 or 2 days in septembre).
One of the warmest and most sunny growing condition in France with more than 2800 h of sun during the life cycle. The average temperature in the year is 16 °C (60,8 °F). Winters are very nice and mild, frost exceptional.
Winds are always blowing : Tramonte amplify the evaporation, cryptogamic disease risks are reduced dramatically. Marin (from the sea), brings humid spray from the sea, enabling vines to resist drought.
AOC since 1971 for reds - AOC since 1991 for rosés - AOC since 2003 for whites.
Only 597 ha (1492 acres) are devoted to dry wines. Maximum yielding : 40 hl/ha.
- White Collioure are based on Grenache white and grey that represente 70% of the blending. 5 other grapes varieties are authorised : Tourbat (Malvoisie from Roussillon), Macabeu, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino (Rolle).
- Collioure reds and rosés are based on Grenache noir. Syrah and Mourvèdre, recently cultivated, may enter up to 60 % of the blending. Other grapes varieties: le Carignan noir and Cinsault for reds. For rosés : Grenache gris (grey) 30 % maximum in addition to the Grenache noir. Rosés are fermented at low temperature, vinified by bleeding vats or pressing out immediately. Reds are often matured in « foudres » (huge oak barrel) or oak barrel, they can’t be released on the market before July 1st of the next year.
Collioure are powerful and mineral, with a strong fruity character, a rich structure, fatty with silky tannins.
AOC Banyuls since 1936. - AOC Banyuls Grand Cru since 1962.
Appellation surface : 1 173 ha (2932 acres) in terrasses. Yielding : 30 hl/ha maximum.
Wines are vinified after direct press or maceration, and then matured in big glass bottles, in foudre, oak barrels and bottles. These wines are going to age slowly to develop gorgeous colours and complex aromas. Banyuls may be dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet or sweet. There are famous for the « rancio » flavour (from rancid or oxidated) developped after a long maturation in oxidative condtions (many years).
- Banyuls : traditional production, we call those wines « tuilés » or tawny, matured in oxidative conditions. Grape varieties : Grenache noir (50% minimum), Grenache grey and white, Macabeu , Malvoisie, other grapes : Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah. Mutage or addition of alcohol (fortified) : neutral alcohol (10 % by volume max) is added to the must. Maturation : Minimum 10 months.
- Banyuls «Rimage» : after a long maceration, juice is fortified in the vat before pressing (mutage sur grain), then bottled quickly in the coming 6 -12 months to preserve the intense fruity flavours, power and freshness.
- Banyuls «Rimage» Mise Tardive (late bottling) : the same process plus a maturation lasting 1 to 3 years in « foudre » or oak barrel in order to make tannins more supple and obtain more complex aromas.
- Banyuls Grand Cru : Wines must be issued from 75 % of Grenache noir at least plus Grenache grey and white, Macabeu, Malvoisie, secondary grapes : Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah. Maximum yielding : 30 hl/ha. Fortified with neutral alcohol. Maturation : 30 months minimum. The name Grand Cru is given only to the wine coming from the best vintages, with long maceration and « mutage sur grain » only. Wines are much more concentrated, release cooked fruits aromas, torrefaction, spices, tobacco and moka. Very long ageing potential.