From €16.50, 21 Swiss francs, £21.33 for 50 cl
Made from old-vine Grenache Noir grown in vineyards cooled by the Mediterranean around Banyuls-sur-Mer, close to the Spanish border, this deep red vin doux naturel jumped out at me in the Big Fortified Tasting in London last week for its full-flavoured elegance and purity.
There are several different styles of Banyuls, depending mainly on the duration and nature of the ageing process (see the Banyuls entry in the Oxford Companion for more details). Unlike the old, oxidative-style treasures Jancis describes in L'Archiviste VDNs in 2017, Coume del Mas, Galateo 2016 Banyuls is youthful, packed with smoky dark fruit and even though it is sweet thanks to the addition of spirit when the wine had reached around 8% alcohol – the final alcohol is 16%, no more than many unfortified southern Rhône reds these days – it somehow tastes much drier than it is (the residual sugar is apparently around 85 g/l).
Underlying power is tempered by elegant restraint, the tannins are compact yet extremely fine, like layer upon layer of tissue paper, and there’s freshness, beautiful balance and persistence. I gave it a score of 17.5 out of 20 and suggested a drinking window of at least 10 years. I may be underestimating its potential longevity but for me this style is all about capturing, and enjoying, the purity of the fruit.
Coume del Mas was created by Philippe (pictured) and Nathalie Gard in 2001. They make both fortified Banyuls and unfortified Collioure, both red and white, from 15 hectares (37 acres) of vines on slopes so steep not even a horse can reach the top, let alone a tractor. Yields are low at around 22 hl/ha.
So the fruit is all hand-picked, double sorted, destemmed and chilled down pre-fermentation for a short maceration. Fermentation is by ambient yeast and the wine tends to stay on the skins for 5–10 days atfer fortification. The wine then spends six months in 225-litre barrels that are at least two years old – and the oak is very much in the background, just giving the wine some oxygen to allow the tannins to start softening and for the components to marry.
This is certainly one of those firm, dark reds that would go very well with dark chocolate or chocolate desserts but I can imagine drinking it with red meat as well thanks to all those lovely fine tannins and dark fruit. The Coume del Mas website suggests it would also go well with fresh fruit (strawberries, perhaps?) and fruit tarts.
Galateo is available in the UK, directly from their importer Clark Foyster at £21.33 per 50cl as well as in all five branches of London’s Vinoteca (online, shop and wine bar) at £21.50, and also in Denmark, Belgium and France. Apologies that it is not available in the US.