Banyuls, Roussillon’s Ultimate Dessert Wine

Banyuls, Roussillon’s Ultimate Dessert Wine

 Photo by Meg Baggott

On the steep, terraced vineyards of southeastern Roussillon in France, near the border with Spain, grapes are harvested by hand to produce Banyuls dessert wines. Strong winds, hot Mediterranean sun and relatively low rainfall contribute to their intense character, but it’s the winemaking process that defines them.

From Mutage to Maceration

A handful of grape varieties are used to produce Banyuls, but the most important is Grenache, left on the vine until the grapes are shriveled by the sun.

When the fermenting must reaches 5–10% alcohol, mutage takes place. This method, devised in the 13th century, stops fermentation by adding a neutral grape-based spirit. Port is produced in a similar way, but Banyuls is lower in alcohol—usually around 16% alcohol-by-volume, whereas Port is often around 20%.

The post-mutage maceration is then a crucial part of the process. Emmanuel Cazes, a vigneron who produces Banyuls at Les Clos de Paulilles, says that the alcohol helps extract color and tannins at this stage.

Read more at Wine Enthusiast