Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Banyuls Sangria and the Côte Vermeille

I've been visiting Roussillon regularly for maybe 15 years now, but I'm amazed that this summer was my first taste of a certain, rather potent local speciality – Banyuls Sangria. The effect it has on you is rather like an expertly mixed gin and tonic. It takes hold of you and presents the world as a better place. When you're already in a rather lovely place, the effect is all the more powerful.

We were driving south along the coast to Banyuls and just before getting there we stopped at an attractive little bay, the Plage des Elmes, for lunch. The beach bar here (Le Sun) is known for its Banyuls Sangria, so the non-drivers settled in happily. You have to remember how close you are to Spain in this Catalan corner of France, so this interpretation the drink makes a lot of sense. Basically, it's local red wine (ideally Collioure) with Banyuls and (for good measure) brandy. It's sweetened to taste with sugar and flavoured with orange. Either you can slice oranges and leave them to macerate in the boozy red wine concoction or add some orange juice. Some recipes suggest doing this the day before and allowing it all to macerate. When you're ready to serve add some lemonade. To be honest, ours didn't taste diluted at all, so leave it out if you prefer!

It was a treat to enjoy this within sight of vines and in such a spectacular location. Banyuls is on the Côte Vermeille (the Vermillion Coast), the craggy, intricate stretch of coastline where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. Maybe it was the sangria, but it was amazing experiencing the landscape and the remarkable rock formations so intimately.

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