When you sojourn in Southern France you’ll have the opportunity to discover a different take on port: Banyuls. A highlight of our French-Spanish borderland sojourn was hiking to taste it.
After hiking around the craggy coastline, we arrived at an exceptional winery. Sure, we could have driven, but we would have missed out on the coastal views, light house, and old fort. Grapevines lined our path as we approached the cove where the winery is nestled. At the beach, a handful of people were swimming and sunning themselves while on the deck of the catamaran moored in the cobalt blue waters a solitary man was discretely getting a tan in his birthday suit. Invisible to those on the beach, he didn’t calculate on hikers coming along the costal precipice. The look on his face! We waved and chuckled when he spotted us continuing on our way up past the beach. When we finally headed the last few feet up toward the winery we were still smiling.
The tasting room and vineyard restaurant were barely set back from the water. As we approached the entrance we happened upon their collection of old fashioned glass carboys or “bonbonnes” full of dark liquids madarising in the sun. This was Banyuls. When last autumn’s grape juice had fermented just enough, the winemaker had added a stronger alcohol to stop the fermentation process and conserve some of the natural sweetness of the grapes. Now the liquid had been sitting out in the sun warming up and oxidizing. After ten months the syrupy nectar would be ready to be bottled. We went inside to taste it.
This particular winery’s drinks are served in fine restaurants so we were in for a real treat. We got small sips of their full product range. My favorite is their amber Rivesaltes, another sweet fortified wine. Caramel color, caramel flavor. Yum. We had discovered it on a previous trip to their sister winery which is located in the city known by the same name: Rivsaltes. Hence our hike to this secluded cove to try their other beverages.
What a lovely day! When I return home and open my souvenir bottle of Rivesaltes to share with friends in the States I’ll be transported back to this perfect sunny day, the vermillion vines, the cobalt sea and cloudless sky.