Historically, the smuggling of goods such as tobacco, leather and silver, to and from Spain was a major activity in Banyuls-sur-Mer, otherwise the inhabitants lived mainly from fishing and viticulture. Nowadays, tourism stemming from the wine industry plays a significant economic role in the town notable for its delicious and rare red Banyuls dessert wine. This most southerly of appellations in France has a climate which is well suited to viticulture - plenty of sunshine ensures optimum ripening conditions, whilst the strong Tramontane wind keeps the vines pest free.
At Domaine la Tour Vieille, Christine and Vincent produce a terrific Banyuls 'Réserva' from a blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Noir and Carignan that is matured au plein air in traditional glass bonbonnes prior to barrel ageing and bottling. It has a deep purple colour (as a colleague who wore a white jacket to a lively luncheon can testify), complex candied fruit aromas and a rich, sweet core of stewed red fruit. It is one of very few wines that partner chocolate desserts successfully and is a regular feature on the tasting menu at Le Gavroche.