Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banyuls wine country

Another day of mixed weather. It seemed like a good day to continue exploring our new route to France. Our first stop was the very busy cooperative in Espolla. There were a lot of people buying wines, filling up plastic containers right from the huge barrels. Lots of wines, red white or rose were on sale for between one and two euros per litre. We were there to buy the unfiltered extra virgin olive oil that is one of the specialties of the cooperative. This oil has left over fruit particles that you can't see but it enhances the taste of the oil. Because these particles will eventually ferment,  the oil has a limited shelf life. Locals and people from across the border in France regularly make the journey to buy this oil.

After our purchase we retraced our route of a few days ago to the Spanish French border. Then we drove down the black tarred road negotiating the sharp switchbacks very carefully. Eventually, the road became quite rough and in need of repair. This coupled with the few mad drivers whizzing along the very narrow roads made for an interesting drive. By now there were vineyards above and below the road as far as the eye could see. Most of the grapes have now been harvested.

Finally, we reached Banyuls sur Mer and continued past it to O Sole Mio, a restaurant we were looking forward to visiting. We followed the lovely cooking smells. There was the same funny, mooching restaurant  dog as last time with his head just about resting on a table, where a group of people were eating. Sadly, it was the family of the restaurant owner. The restaurant is now closed and will reopen in April.

We returned to a winery in Banyuls for a Serrano ham salad and some tapas....a brochette of crevettes, calamari and a selection of wild mushrooms sautéed in oil, garlic and white wine with some parsley. It is impossible to resist the dessert, isles flottant, the light meringue floating in creme anglaise. All this was accompanied with the winery's rose wine. As we were leaving we saw the huge barrels of grapes giving off that rich, fermenting smell.

It was time to walk off our lunch. Since we were right at the port we walked past the fishing boats and the University of Paris Curie Aquarium out over the huge, red and yellow coloured rocks to the edge of the blustery sea. We then browsed our way around the little art galleries and shops right by the marina before returning to the car for the scenic drive down the coast back to the Port.

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