The Côte Vermeille takes its wonderful name from the short but scenic stretch of Catalan coastline descending from just north of Collioure to the Spanish border. Its literal meaning is the Vermillion Coast, from the vibrant orange-red colour given by the oxidised schist, which was an instant landmark for sailors and merchants plying the Mediterranean since Phoenician and Roman times.
In terms of the wines produced here, the real stars of the Côte Vermeille, are AOP Collioure, the AOPs Vins Doux Naturels Banyuls and Banyuls Grand Cru, which provide wines of outstanding pedigree and longevity in the case of the latter two.
The amazing terroir of the Côte Vermeille also produces an IGP declined in two styles: classic dry wines in three colours and a specific dry Rancio.
As a wine region, IGP Côte Vermeille is equally compact yet punches well above its weight. The zone includes the renowned towns of Banyuls-sur-Mer and Collioure, as well as Cerbère and Port-Vendres. The vineyards reflect the region’s rocky coastline and spread across terraced slopes facing the sea on soils predominantly of Cambrian grey schist.
One of the strengths of IGP Côte Vermeille is its wealth of grape varieties. For the reds and rosés, Roussillon icons including mainly Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Carignan Noir possibly rub shoulders with international stars such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and the lesser-known indigenous Chenanson and Marselan. Similar breadth in variety extends to the whites, with Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu meeting the likes of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
With a broad palette of varieties to choose from, many wine producers create blends to highlight the qualities of the grapes and the region, while others choose to make single varieties shine. Reds range from light-bodied, fresh and fruity to structured and powerful wines that benefit from ageing. Rosés bring forward red fruit and floral notes, while whites run the gamut from the fine and delicate to concentrated and rich, usually depending on the varieties used and the winemaking techniques employed.
A special mention must go to IGP Côte Vermeille’s “rancio” wines. These special oxidised dry styles start out using red or white varieties, but invariably end up taking on amber hues, as well as notes of dried fruits and nuts as they age.
Click here to find out more about AOP Collioure.
Click here to find out more about AOP Banyuls and Banyuls Grand Cru.
Photo Florian Pépellin