Hard by the Spanish border where the Pyrénées mountains tumble into the Mediterranean, Collioure is simultaneously one of France’s most obscure appellations and, in the words of wine writer Jon Bonné, “one of the most radical and interesting places in the country to produce wine.” Named after an old fishing village and artist colony along the Côte Vermeille, its steep, terraced vineyards overlooking the sea are some of the most spectacular—and some of the oldest—in all of Europe.
Established in 1971, Collioure is co-extensive with the Banyuls appellation and produces powerful dry red and white wines from the most southerly of France’s vineyards. Rising to altitudes of 750 meters, the vineyards retain the distinctive “feixas” terraces and stone-lined canals known locally as “les agulles” (“the needles”), constructed centuries ago to prevent erosion and manage the region’s infrequent torrential downpours.
There are four communes which dot the final stretch of coastline before the Spanish border: Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbère. With old vines and exceedingly low yields, production is necessarily tiny. Grenache noir, Syrah or Mourvèdre compose a minimum of 60% of any blend, with Carignan, Cinsault and other varieties comprising no more than 40%. Despite the rigorous conditions, Collioure wines always maintain a felicity and nuance despite their power, the proximity of the sea serving to temper the native extremes as well as lending a savory, smoky-saline, maritime character to the wines.
One of three single-vineyard Collioure “crus” produced by Domaine du Mas Blanc, ‘Les Junquets’ comes from a steeply-terraced, west-facing parcel of the region’s celebrated schist soils. Vinification is traditional: Old-vine Syrah and a small section of Marsanne and Roussanne (which together comprise 10% of the blend) are hand-harvested from miniscule yields, trodden by foot and fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts. Matured in old Bordeaux barrels for at least one year, this wine boasts great dimension and savory mineral depths, with notes of cassis, smoked venison and garrigue herbs underscored by a telltale iodine signature. Enjoy with all manner of roasted game, porcini mushroom or risotto. Capable of continued improvement over the next 10-12 years. Full details
One of three single-vineyard Collioure “crus” produced by Domaine du Mas Blanc, ‘Clos du Moulin’ comes from a 1.8-hectare plot, southeast-facing, on the banks of the river Baillaury. The soil is schist mixed with gravel and sand. Vinification is traditional: Mourvèdre and Counoise (10%) are hand-harvested from goblet vines, trodden by foot, and fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts. Matured in old Bordeaux barrels for at least one year, ‘Clos du Moulin’ is simultaneously dark and brooding, carnal and oceanic. Notes of blackberry, dried blood, cured tobacco, tapenade, violet and bay leaf speak to the grandeur and savagery of this unique terroir. Enjoy with spit-fired lamb, smoked duck and truffles. Capable of continued improvement over the next 12-15 years. Full details