On the eastern edged of the Pyrénées Orientales, the Banyuls appellation covers four communes (Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbère) where its steep hills plunge down into the Mediterranean. There are about 1200 hectares of vines on poor, acidic, schistose soil, ideal for Grenache. Growing the vines on terraces favours plenty of sunshine and the nearby sea contributes to an excellent microclimate for ripening the grapes. Banyuls is what is known as "muté": alcohol is added to the must to stop fermentation, and in this way some of the grapes' natural sugar remains in the wine. The ageing process is crucial. Depending on the type of wine being made, there are two methods. Oxidized ("rancio") wines, generally made from blends of different vintages, or old vintages, are matured in casks or demijohns that are exposed the sun. Whereas wines for which the objective is to preserve the fruit, are bottled when they are young, to avoid oxidation. This type of Banyuls is known as a "rimage", and is made from a single vintage. Note that to obtain the Grand Cru appellation (always for red wine), the barrel ageing period must be 30 months (as opposed to a year for Banyuls) and Grenache Noir must account for at least 75% of the blend, compared to 50% for Banyuls. The red wines are a ruby-mahogany colour, and offer notes of nuts, prunes, cooked fruit, that mingle with hints of coffee, brandy and toasted almonds. The rimage wines keep aromas of red fruit, cherries and kirsch.
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