At the southernmost part of mainland France, where the Mediterranean meets the Pyrenees, lies a Catalan port town so idyllic that artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Braque all made pilgrimages to paint the coastline and famous large medieval castle. Collioure is doubly awe-inspiring if you love wine—as you walk the streets, it’s impossible not to admire the steep, terraced, schist-grown vineyards that tower above the sea. From grapes grown along these hillsides, Vincent Cantié of La Tour Vieille fashions wines that taste like nothing else we import from the south of France.
Made mostly with sun-baked Grenache, La Pinède possesses a remarkable weightlessness and freshness that you rarely find in such a succulent, flavorful southern red. Evoking black cherries, licorice, and garrigue, this elegant rouge is the ultimate entry point to the charms of French Catalonia.
Imagine a red, Grenache-based Sauternes, full of earth and spice, and you’ll have a decent idea how delicious this Banyuls tastes. It pairs famously well with chocolate. A bûche de Noël, mousse, and flourless chocolate cake are my favorites.
For the most out-there cuvée of the three here, Vincent harvests Grenache Blanc and Gris late and allows the wine to undergo a long, slow fermentation. After two years of deliberate oxidation in barrel, he bottles it, capturing something similar to Vin Jaune or dry Sherry. With its aromas of toasted almonds and butterscotch, the resulting bone-dry wine is nothing short of enthralling. Serve it with Castelvetrano olives, a nutty cheese, or slices of your favorite cured ham for one of the most memorable pairings you’ll experience all winter.
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