Designated by the same exact geographical boundaries as the more famous Banyuls AOC, Collioure encompasses the unfortified wines that are found in these areas. The communes of Banyuls-sur-Mer (16.35 square miles), Cerbère (3.16 square miles), Port-Vendres (5.7 square miles), and the titular Collioure (5.03 square miles) add up to 30.24 square miles. Millions of bottles of wines are produced each year, in many different types of unfortified styles.
Collioure itself is an amazing scenic fishing port, with beautiful palms at the shore of the incoming sea and grandiose old castles up on the hills. The identical terroir and similar grapes give the impression that these wines would be clearly "Banyuls without the fortification". But these underrated gems have a completely different character; rich, exotically spicy, and exhilarating in vibrancy and power, they can age for 5-10 years.
The region's AOC was established in 1971, exactly a year before the 1972 incorporation of the Banyuls region. The wines had been around for much longer, since wine was first introduced to the region by the Greeks. The Spanish influence on Collioure wine is obvious: the wines are spicy and full-bodied in a classically Languedoc way, yet dark, smooth, elegant, and almost wild in a way that isn't very French.
Climate and Viticulture
At the very south of the Roussillon, bordering on Spain's northerly region--Catalonia--Collioure is almost more Spanish than French in many geographical and viticultural ways. Warm and dry summers make for spicy, ripe, dry wines, and the influence of the sea often lightens the wines and makes them more elegant. Where schist and limestone combine, on the towering hills above the region, the most full and Rhône-like of Collioure's wines are produced.
The confusing rules of the Collioure appellation dictate the use of exactly five red grapes for the red wines, which must be blends. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre must together make up 60% of the blend (but no individual one can make up more than 90%), while Carignan and Cinsaut are allowed in smaller quantities.
The shocking spicy tinge in these wines that reminds many drinkers of Southern Rhône styles indicates Collioure wines' main varietal: Grenache. The wines are an essence of the grape, with earthy, modest flavors of sweet red fruit and herbs. Mourvèdre, which is not used in Banyuls, adds a darker note.
Collioure is a large appellation, but many of the wines deliver the magic. As such this appellation is quite reliable. Nonetheless, we list four producers whose wines are readily available in the United States and exceed the norm.
- Clos de Paulilles: Also among the best Banyuls producers, Clos des Paulilles makes similarly steady, reliable examples of Collioure. Full-bodied yet light in color and flavor, these wines are almost cooked in ripeness but are not sweet at all. A rosé is also made, presumably from Mourvèdre.
- Coume del Mas: This producer's "Quadratur" cuvée is one of the most exciting in all of Collioure, showing fantastic complexity and as much as 10 years' ageability. Smoothly ripe, with dark but not anonymous flavors and a very thick, concentrated texture, this Rioja-like wine has a lot going for it. The "Schistes" cuvée is more conventional, with more obvious red fruit and spice but the same breadth and concentration.
- Domaine du Mas Blanc: One of the classiest producers in Collioure is also one of the best in Banyuls, but its three Collioure cuvées almost exceed the Banyuls wines in complexity. With fancy labels and traditional flavors, these wines are more French than the majority of Spanish-influenced wines made here. The Clos du Moulin has black fruit, wild spicy herbs, and a gamy, leathery nuance, but its ripeness prevents it from being overly intense. The Cosprons Levants is more bitter and earthy, although its herb elements are much more noticeable. The Les Junquets is the most intense, but after a few years of aging it should improve.
- Domaine la Tour Vielle: This domaine's Collioure offerings exceed its Banyuls examples, which are also good. The best cuvée is the Puig Oriol; combining bittersweet intensity with the superripeness of hillside wine, it has earthy red fruit and pleasant spice and herb nuances.
Collioure is most closely related to Banyuls, which shares its geographical boundaries. Collioure has no subregions.