Friday, 14 October 2011

Collioure: gorgeous place, great wines

Collioure is a gorgeous place. It's an old French fishing port close to the Spanish border on a craggy stretch of coastline where the Pyrenean mountains tumble into the Mediterranean. Historically it's more famous for its anchovies than for wine, although the spectacular terraced vineyards that overlook the town have produced wine for centuries. A large, but declining proportion of this is bottled as Banyuls AOC (its southerly neighbour). Whereas Banyuls is a sweet port-like fortified wine, and one of the few wines that's reliably good with chocolate, Collioure AOC produces supple flavoursome red and white dry unfortified wines, often with a distinctive saline tang. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre perform beautifully here, being well suited to warm, coastal locations. Whites are drawn from a broad palette of grapes including Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Marsanne, Rousanne and Vermentino. I'm rather partial to Collioure as we regularly spend holidays in this part of France. (Apparently, Brigitte Bardot seriously considered Collioure before settling on St Tropez as her holiday retreat. That decision was fine by us – it keeps this generally overlooked corner of France within our budget.)

I am often drawn to quirky wines and particularly like Collioure Blanc. We bought this artistically labelled bottle on holiday in the summer. I admit I do like the picture on the label – well, the wine is called Cuvée des Peintres – and, at about 8 Euros, it was quite a reasonably priced example.

It was surprisingly good with complex layers of flavour: tropical fruit, savoury and nutty, with a powerful underlying saline minerality. Impressive stuff from the local Cave de l'Abbé Rous co-operative and memorably good with our recent butternut squash risotto with chorizo and sage.

The Wine Society currently stocks some great examples of this style of wine both from Collioure and from the broader region which are labelled Côtes du Roussillon or Vins de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. Expect to pay in excess of £10 or £15 for these and £23 for Domaine de la Rectorie Collioure Blanc l'Argile 2010. However, Sainsbury's are currently stocking a Languedoc Blanc in their reliable Taste the Difference range. It's made from a similar blend of grapes (in this case Grenache, Marsanne and Vermentino) and is a big, satisfying, complex wine that, at £7.99, really punches above its weight (and is selling well – the big Camden branch had sold out when I was there last week).


  1. Just bought a box of "cuvee des peintres" during my visit to Collioure in Aug 2012. Hope it tastes as well at home

  2. Hi Lucy,

    I work for Academic Arrangements Abroad, a tour operator in New York City, and we'd like to use your beautiful shot of Collioure (the first image that appears above) on our Facebook page. We would credit you, of course. Would that be all right? Please let me know soonest. Thanks!

    Sara Welch
    Academic Arrangements Abroad

    1. Thanks for your message Sara. I'm happy for you to use the image crediting me, Lucy Bridgers.