The first time Chloé put her nose in a glass of Banyuls, she was blown away. Just like the pianist she is, the young woman tried to pick apart the aroma note by note. Chocolate, vanilla, mocha, walnut, prune, caramel, coffee, and cacao all brought memories to mind. Chloé was swept up in a sensory journey and was transported back to the spice cabinet of her childhood home. She fell in love with the rich aromatic palette of these wines. Maury is her favorite, but she has a soft spot for Rivesaltes as well. The young woman was surprised to learn these wines are made with a technique called "mutage". This brings us to our second journey through time. Mutage was discovered in 1235 by a certain Arnau de Vilanova, a physician working in the court of the Mallorcan king. Mutage involves adding a 96% grape spirit to the fermenting must. This stops the alcohol fermentation process and preserves the grape's natural sugars. The resulting wines have a high alcohol content (15-18%).
The sun in a wineglass
Curious to find out more, Chloé decided to travel to Roussillon in southern France. She was astonished when she visited the wine cellars. The rooms were lined with immense containers called vats, demi-muids, and barrels, depending on their size. Outside, the wines were exposed to the sun in dames-jeannes, which aren't actually ladies, but large glass jars. Chloé learned about how these methods of aging the wine allow for air exchange. This is what produces its unique aromas. Chloé then visited the vineyard to enjoy some of the finished product. Our next journey focuses on Grenache, a Spanish varietal that was imported into Rousillon from the neighboring province of Aragon in the Middle Ages. Chloé has discovered the secret behind these wines—the sun-loving Grenache grape.
Once you've appreciated their aromas, you'll be impressed by the body of naturally sweet wines. They are actually quite full bodied, in fact, and pair well with duck, smoked meats, iconic dark chocolate appetizers, and even blue cheeses!
On the same subject
Raise Your Glass to a Festive Season with the best varietal wines from France, courtesy of Virgin Wines!
In partnership with Vin de France