Domaine de la Rectorie Banyuls 1994
When June arrives my drinking, as is the case for many people I suspect, tends to change with the weather. My thoughts turn more towards fresh and flavoursome whites, peachy rosés, crisp reds with cherry-stone and plum skin freshness, low in tannin and high in refreshing acidity, all preferably served cool. And, for an after dinner treat, chilled Sauternes, Jurançon or Coteaux du Layon, all with again vibrant acidity to cut through the sugar, as well as the warmth of a sunny summer evening. But last Friday did not seem like June, as it was a cool and blustery day on the sports field as I watched my children participate in a "traditional" sports day, an event characterised by the egg-and-spoon and three-legged races, in which, unlike the usual contemporary sports day where everyone's a winner, there was a refreshing distinction between the victorious and hopeless! The next day was worse; cold, wet, grey and non-stop rain from the break of dawn until nightfall. Something a little less summery to drink was called for, and this half bottle of Banyuls from appellation leader Domaine de la Rectorie fitted the bill nicely.
In Roussillon there are two domaines run by the Parcé family, and both produce wines of notable quality. At Domaine du Mas Blanc it is Jean-Michel Parcé, whilst at Domaine de la Rectorie it is distant relation Marc Parcé. Like many local estates dry wines now constitute the most significant part of the portfolio in both cases, but Banyuls remains an important feature too, and these wines can be worth looking out for as an alternative to other, more famous fortified wines. They are vin doux naturel, wines sweetened by arresting fermentation with the addition of spirit, and they are based largely on Grenache Noir, which must make up at least 50% of the blend for Banyuls (75% for Banyuls Grand Cru), with other permissible varieties including Maccabeu, Tourbat and the Muscats, as well as Carignan, Cinsaut and Syrah, provided these latter varieties do not exceed 10% of the final blend. This particular half bottle has been rolling around in my cellar for a little while now, alongside a half-case of the 2001 Rectorie Banyuls Cuvée Leon Parcé, named after Marc Parcé's grandfather, which I haven't yet had the opportunity to taste. Nevertheless, I opted for this more mature bottle, the Domaine de la Rectorie 1994 Banyuls, and I was not disappointed. It has a vibrant red hue in the glass, and an enticing nose. There is a little touch of spirit evident, but it is not sufficient to distract from the sweet figgy fruit, accompanied by little subtleties of sweet molasses and wood. The palate is surprisingly full and creamy and has certainly held up very nicely over the last thirteen years. More woody and figgy notes, but with a fresh red fruit edge to it, all presented in a rich and rounded yet freshly balanced frame. It has a very pleasing, integrated and elegant feel on the palate, bordering on silky, but showing some good extract through the midpalate which suggest that this wine still has some more to give. But for the moment I am happy to let it warm my bones on this cold, June evening! 17.5/20 (18/6/07)