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Pronounced bah-nyuhls. An exceptional French red dessert wine produced in the appellation of Banyuls in the Pyrenees region of Southwestern France. The appellation of Banyuls is best known for its unusual fortified wines (vin doux naturel). The wines are sometimes vinified moderately dry, although they are at their best when they are sweet. The grapes are picked late in harvest, September-October, when the fruit has become overripe.

Blends: The wine must be made from a minimum of 50% Grenache varietal, those labeled grand cru must contain a minimum of 75% Grenache varietal. Other varietals grown in the appellation include: Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Muscat, Carignan, Cinsault, and Syrah.

Characteristics: Traditionally a sweet, crisp, refreshing red wine with flavors of vanilla and cinnamon. The wine is thought to take on the woodsy characteristics of a tawny port. Styles vary from medium dry wine, sweet, fruity, and rancio.

Banyuls is required to contain a minimum of 15% alcohol and contain a minimum of 50% Grenache varietal. Banyuls grand crue is required to contain a minimum of 75% Grenache varietal.

A rancio style of Banyuls is oxidized by placing it in barrels and exposing it to the sun during the hot summer. This oxidation creates the infamous tawny color and rich, unique flavor.

Ageing: Aged for a minimum of 10 months, sealed bottles are capable of ageing for several years. Grand cru must be aged in wood for a minimum of 2 ½ years.

Serving temperature: Best when served at a temperature of 53-57º F. Allow bottle to breathe for one hour before serving.

Food pairings: Chocolate, perfect as an aperitif and a dessert wine.

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