Bila-Haut Banyuls Rimage is a vin doux naturel (“VDN”) or fortified wine and it makes a lovely alternative to port or to a dessert wine. Whereas dessert wines are produced when yeasts naturally stop the fermentation process leaving sugars in a wine of normal alcoholic strength, VDNs, like port, are fortified with a neutral grape spirit which stops fermentation before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol. The wine therefore retains some sugar though is less sweet than a dessert wine and has alcoholic strength between 15% and 18%, in this instance 16.5%. Port is usually closer to 20%.
Domaine Bila-Haut Banyuls Rimage Vin Doux Naturel Sélection Parcellaire 2020 comes from a domaine that is owned by renowned Rhône winemaker M Chapoutier, an adherent of biodynamics and organic wine-making. This VDN is produced in Banyuls in the Languedoc-Roussillon region with minimal intervention (the vineyards are currently being converted to organic) from Grenache or Grenache Noir, a black grape known for its sweet fruit aromas and flavours, soft tannins and high alcohol. The old vines on schistous soils produce low yields of very ripe grapes which means flavours are concentrated. Some VDNs are made in a highly oxidised style displaying more nutty, roasted flavours (think tawny port or madeira in style); this is more of a fresh and fruity style – black fruits, dark ripe plums, stewed plums – with notes of warm spices, chocolate and raisins. The tannins are soft so hardly noticeable; this is a lovely, smooth wine with a long, warming finish.