Collioure, pretty wines of the Mediterranean( This is my second article on my recent press trip to Spain-France sponsored by Wines of Garnacha)
I first learned about the seaside town of Collioure not by wine but by art. It was through out the extensive art education of my aunt Fanny that I discovered that this medieval style Mediterranean commune was the hub of the fauvists. In a million years, I would have never imagined that one day would set foot in this sleepy fishing village that set on fire Henri Matisse. This is the beauty of wine: It can take you to beautiful winding roads.
Collioure is a must see, filled with a rich archeological past from ancient people, architectural beauties, pastel colored architecture and a beautiful Catalan harbor that inspired great painters like Picasso, Matisse, Derain and many more leading this southern gem to become a cultural hub in France.
In our trip as the driver approached the entrance of Collioure, I entered in a beautiful coma. From my passenger seat, I stared captivated at the twisted old vineyards in the Côte Vermeille gripping on the dark schist steep terraces. To the left, the serenity of the sea. It was a very powerful surreal image that lead me to a high racing pulse.
The dramatism and beauty of Collioure is reflected on their wines. The vineyards here are infamous for some of the lowest yields in Europe. Vines on these terraces are bush trained, meaning that all vineyard work is manual. As I stared at those vines, I could not imagine the difficulty of pruning and harvesting in the hot mediterranean sun. However, the wines that come out from these hunched back vines are just beautiful. They are some of the most captivating wines of Europe
In this Mediterranean paradise, the principal varietals for red wines are Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvedre. The whites should be crafted primarily Grenache Blanc and Gris complemented by Macabeu, Malvoise, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino. These are the authorized varietals of the appellation system. The AOP also requires that for red wines to classify in the appellation they must contain 60% minimum of the principal red varieties. For the whites, they are slightly stiffer: For instance, white wines must contain at least 70% of white and grey Grenache. Finally for rose wines, the appellation allows up to 30% grey grenache
Collioure’s Terroir has a striking similarity to Priorat but with an important difference: the sea. Both appellations share the same predominant soil ( schist/slate) with very steep slopes inclining from 15% to 60% and intense sunlight during the year. Collioure and Priorat are also influenced by an important wind called the Tramontane which help keep the vines dry and healthy.
The Grenache wines?. They seem tough as the Saint-Elme Fortress but instead graceful to drink as the first impression of Les Toits de Collioure by Matisse. Here, the influence of the sea often lightens the wines and makes them more elegant. The Grenache white and grey based wines have tremendous minerality displaying magnificent floral qualities as well such as jazmin, verbena and wild fennel flower. On the palate, they are fresh with an incredible acidity and salinity. As a result, they are perfect with the local fish gastronomy of sardines, anchovies and tuna.
On the other hand, the red Grenaches of Collioure are balsamic with deep and resonant notes of dry black fruits and complemented by a striking and pungent aroma of smoke leading to an animal almost sanguine quality. On the palate, they are surprisingly fresh with a vibrant acidity and freshness.
Tasting the best of Collioure at home:
The estate of legendary Rhone captain Pierre Gaillard in the Roussillon. It is managed by her daughter Elise and assisted by winemaker ( Florian Kasteloot). The wines are impressive but certainly in a Northern Rhône style. The vineyards of Madeloc cover around 30 hectares, including 23 hectares within the communes of Banyuls, Cerbère, and Port-Vendres. The plots are scattered between the sea and the mountains at altitudes between 2-450 meters above sea level.
The Tremadoc white is a predominant blend of Grenache Gris complemented by Vermentino and Roussanne. The 2018 tasted in the company of Florian was interesting. It had aromas of confit lemon peel, asphalt complemented by peach cream. The palate was round and caressing with a long finale. The 2016 is available at the SAQ for the moment for $24.25 ( 13921108)
The Serral 2016 is almost a monovarietal Grenache blend ( 80% Grenache, 15 % Mourvedre, 5% Syrah). One of the best reds of Collioure, the wine displays nuances of wild cherries, iron with splashes of dry blueberry. It is sultry in the mid palate, with a nice menthol finale. At the SAQ we can the 2015 vintage for $28.55 (11475491).
With approximately 220 hectares of vineyards, it is one of the largest biological and biodynamic producers in France and Europe. The family estate is managed by fourth generation Emmanuel Cazes.
Among different wines tasted in the company of Emmanuel, one of my favourites was the white Collioure-Les Clos de Paulilles-2018. A predominant blend of Grenache Blanc (80%) with the rest of Grenache Gris ( 20%). This wine does not see any oak and it is fermented in a mix of concrete and stainless steel. This vinification method is used to preserve grape freshness
Fantastic white recalling green tea, Granny Smith apple with a touch of jazmin and flint. On the palate, fresh with a nice vibrancy and minerality. The finale was the best part of this wine. It had such a stunning crescendo of iodine seaweed aromas.
The Clos de Paulilles white is available in private import through Select wines in Quebec (514 272-4343). The 2018 retails for $30.75. Case of 6
Clos Saint Sebastien
Founded in 2008 by the association of Jacques Piriou and the oenologist Romuald Peronne, this last one vinifies impressively the twenty hectares of its old vineyard installed on the hillsides of schists arranged in terraces, characteristics of the sumptuous soil of Collioure-Banyuls.
The empreintes, flagship wine of the domaine is a predominant blend of Grenache gris and white with a touch of Vermentino. It is very representative of the Collioure Terroir.The 2018 tasted at the domaine with Mr. Peronne was just stunning. It had a mind blowing nose reminiscent of lemon peel, verbena, herbs with a touch of pineapple and grapefruit. Dry and mineral with a puckering acidity that makes you salivate. Tight and austere finale. At the moment, the 2016 is available at the SAQ ( 13842258, $29.05)