The Côte Vermeille (vermillion coast) is a 13 mile long stretch of beaches, small bays, creeks, and coves nested along the coastline of southern France on the border of Catalunya. This romantic yet rugged land is where the Massif des Albères, the eastern extremity of the Pyrenees, tumbles into the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The massif’s red rock gives the region its name, and the schist composition of the rock is one of the elements that endow the region’s wines with their earthy, mineral frame, forcing the vine roots deep into the earth to seek moisture and nutrients.
The seaside towns of Collioure and Banyuls-sur-Mer are situated within the small footprint of the Côte Vermeille. Both are centers of the region’s wine production with terraced vineyards carved into the foothills rising up behind them. This is no easy place to be a wine producer. Most of the vineyards are cut into steep slopes and are organized by stone walls and drainage canals that surround them and help to resist erosion. The 37 acres of vineyards at Coume del Mas mainly reside on slopes so steep not even a horse can reach the top, let alone a tractor. Tending and harvesting the vines is done by hand both as a tradition and by necessity. There, the studious vigneron is intimate with every vine and plot of soil.
Coume del Mas was created by Philippe and Nathalie Gard in 2001. The couple produce two types of wines from this challenging terroir: The dry wines, both red and white, of Collioure, and the somewhat Port-like Vin Doux Naturel wines of Banyuls that are fortified during fermentation to leave natural residual sugar. The landscape yields concentrated fruit from the local grape varieties of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignan. While this fruit is the backbone for these enchanting and distinctive wines, it is the Gard’s careful work in the vineyard and winery that ensures balance and finesse in each bottle. Today, the couple is recognized as one of the leading producers in the region.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match).
~$34 “Folio” (Collioure 2017) Dry White
90% Grenache Gris and 10% Grenache Blanc from schist soils, “Folio” is fermented with indigenous yeasts and ages on its lees for six months in barrel. Low yields produce a wine that is rich, yet clean and elegant. Herbal and fruit blossom aromas precede a sip of medium-bodied peach fruit to finish with a bit of lime peel. It is a classic Mediterranean white that will pair exceptionally well with rich seafood and poultry dishes.
~$34 “Schistes” (Collioure 2017) Dry Red
100% old vine Grenache from 30 different parcels reveal the unique terroir of Côte Vermeille. The fruit is hand-sorted, destemmed, and crushed into stainless steel tanks where fermentation takes place. The wine macerates on its skins for about five weeks before it is pressed and aged for nine months in tank. The result is a medium-bodied wine redolent of cherry liqueur, licorice, and crushed stone that is quite versatile at the dinner table paired with everything from spicy stir-fry to hunks of red meat.
~$49 “Quadratur” (Collioure 2016) Dry Red
A classic blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, and 20% Carignan from the highest altitude, low yielding old vines on the Coume del Mas estate. Rigorous sorting and a long maceration extracts maximum aromatics and flavor before aging takes place for 12 to 14 months in barrel. Raspberry and black cherry fruit mingle with exotic spices over a medium to full-bodied frame. It is a firm wine, capable of pairing with the heartiest fare, yet also possesses wonderful layers of depth.
~$29 “Galateo” (Banyuls 2017) 500ml Sweet Red
Produced from 100% old vine Grenache grown on prime sites near the sea. The cooling effect of the winds accentuate the fruit character. The wine is fortified on skins to reduce oxidation before aging in oak casks for a minimum of six months. Spiced plums, cherry preserves, milk chocolate, and violets fill your senses before a sip reveals a balanced juiciness that’s not cloyingly sweet nor obviously dry. A perfect accompaniment with fresh fruit and mild cheeses or merely as an apéritif.
$45 “Quintessence” (Banyuls 2015) 500ml Sweet Red
100% Grenache from very low yielding old vines on the estates best sites. Severe selection and a long maceration extract intense flavors for this profound and age-worthy cuvée. The wine is fortified on skins to reduce oxidation before aging in oak barrels (50% new) for a minimum of eight months. A Port-like bouquet of ripe blackberries, cedar spice, and anise precedes a full-bodied, ripe character ideal for pairing with intense hard cheeses and pâtés.