Danjou-Banessy, Roussillon, France
We are delighted to share outstanding scores for Domaine Danjoy-Banessy...
Reviewed by Tamlyn Currin for JancisRobinson.com in her article Roussillon Proudly Independent part 1 and part 2. Danjou- Banessy sit comfortably at the top with the highest reviews for both the white and red wines. Tamlyn’s rich and descriptive reviews take you to the heart of the Roussillon as if you were sitting in the shade amongst the ancient vines with Sébastien drinking the wines yourself. Tamlyn points out that the way the Roussillon has been so overlooked is one of the “biggest travesties of the wine world” as she discovers the almost “perturbing grace” that these wines can have.
“The best of them, from the oldest vines in harsh mountain vineyards, are strikingly introvert, perfumed, bafflingly fine-boned. (…) with a linear core of freshness that makes the wines taste incomprehensibly cool. Can a wine like this really come from the hot Agly Valley?” she says.
But it is the white-wine vineyards that captured her heart. "When people ask where my favourite wine region is, I send them straight to Roussillon and tell them to look for the white wines.” Known for sweet industrial wines, the region is now producing “some of the most exciting wines imaginable. Not only that, but these old vines are remarkably resilient, quite possibly holding valuable genetic keys to climate-change adaptability.”
Tamlyn explains that the region is one of France's “most forward-thinking” regions, which “leads the way in organic production not just in France but in Europe. The Roussillon producers I have got to know, make their wines with laser integrity – they love and manage their vineyards and make their wines the way that they live their lives. No pretence, no pretentiousness, no marketing bullshit, hard slog, love, no compromise.”
We have included reviews for wines where we have stock. For those of you who were quick, you may be interested to learn that for the whites and skin contact wines, the 2018 La Truffière received 18 points, while the Supernova skin contact 2020 received 17 points. For the reds, 2017 Les Myrs – 18 points and 2017 La Truffière – 17 points, If you would like more detailed reviews, please get in touch or head over to JancisRobinson.com to read the full article.View Wines
“In the Roussillon, more than anywhere else on earth, the white varieties of Grenache Blanc, Carignan Gris, Macabeu and Muscat, seem to muster up a defiant contradiction of richness and freshness.”
For the Whites...
2019, Côtes Catalanes "La Truffière" – 18 points
Danjou is adamant that Carignan Gris is a fantastic variety. ‘The acidity is amazing (very important for the future). Compared with Grenache, it always has one point more acidity. It is also a very late variety, harvested after Grenache, which enables the grapes to be on the vine for a long time, so they get true phenolic ripeness.’
Smoky. Very, very smoky! (When I comment on this, Danjou says ‘we find a lot of smoke in slate/schist soils – always mineral and smoky’.) A wine with a soaring architectural structure, skyscraper, iron and mettle, something dauntless, a jaw-clenched vitality. And yet, under that taut gantry of cordite and citric peel, there is honey. There is a cusp of the most delicate white peach, like the white pearl of a new moon, slim sickle silver in the charcoal sky. A wine with what I can only describe as brutal honesty. It shocks, stops, clarifies, magnifies, illuminates, sharpens the beauty. Like a pane of glass, it shows what is. Like a pane of glass, it has unsparing edges. Like a pane of glass, it is strong, it is fragile.
2019, Côtes Catalanes "Clos des Escounils" – 17.5 points
Seb Danjou points out that the acidity of the wine comes from the Grenache Noir (picked with the Gris and Blanc, it’s slightly underripe), the texture from the Grenache Gris and the terpenes in the wine from the pine forest and thick rosemary bushes that surround the vineyard. Young, he reckons that the wine is more ‘terpenic, needs to calm down, is best with smoky fish cooked whole over the coals of an open fire’. With four or five years of ageing, it becomes creamier and can handle richer fish dishes. Slightly (delicately) smoky but the sweetness of stone-fruit aromatics developing over several days. Broad-shouldered. A long, quiet trajectory of flavour funnelled through a corridor of fine, restrained but unapologetic bitterness. Next to La Truffière, this wine has a delicate biddability, but that’s only in comparison. Its smoke weft into pomelo warp; its peach-sweet yarn pulled into silvery tension. It’s silk into stone. There is a strong ley line of bitterness connecting vine, earth, man. In this glass, you can feel the thousand pruning cuts that go back nearly a century; the scars that turn to buds that turn to grapes that turn to wine. Year after year. In this glass, you taste wild-flower nectar, crushed rosemary oils, pine needles. It’s a wine with the texture of linen card, pressed with lemon blossom, olive leaf. It’s as delicate, and as strong, as a spider web. It catches the light through the dew at dawn.
2018 Côtes Catalanes "Clos des Escounils" – 17.5 points
A single, walled, 1.5-ha vineyard that they started working within 2014 – a very old field blend of Grenache Noir, Blanc and Gris. Very low yields. Sébastien Danjou described it to me as ‘a very special place, the vines are around the forest’. Very, very old vines that were in a bad state, along with the soil, when they took over the vineyard. They’ve been working on bringing life back to the soil and nurturing the vines back to health. They’re also very, very slowly replacing the vines that have died but doing their own grafting programme over three or four years. The whole vineyard is harvested at the same time, all three varieties pressed together, fermented together, matured together. The wine is only one foudre (20 hl, 2,500 bottles). Bottled in spring after about 18 months in oak.
Another amazing nose! What is it with these Danjou wines? I find myself almost forgetting to drink them… Frangipani, orange blossom, oleander, sweet box blossoms (Sarcococca). Smelling this wine is like meditation. You could lose yourself. And then, you taste it, and the acidity is voltage in the mouth. Not shocking; but shocking. All the florals, there, on the palate, but they taste as if they’ve been carved into stream-cold stones and frozen in ice. Tastes of cold rain. Of under-fern moss. Pomelo fruit, its white-granite-dust-subtle-citrus-sweet-tinged-bitterness, lingers on the mid-palate for a moment, then gives way to the stones, to the smoke, to the stone flowers.
2019, IGP Côtes Catalanes "Coste" - 17 points
This is their drink-young wine. Chalk powder and clouds of florals. A wine that smells like walking through an English orchard in early May. White pears, sweet dill, matcha powder, kerned yoghurt, lemon zest – slender, piercing, focused. Breathtaking freshness. Like a plunge in a cold pebbled stream. Almost like licking limestone! Beautiful acidity, like a thousand tiny glass shafts; complex, many-sided, light refracting. Sébastien Danjou says, 'drink this young – it can age, but it’s made to be drunk young'. I’m already thinking celeriac remoulade and lemon-thyme grilled chicken thighs or pork medallions…
"I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that a Roussillon red can have the finesse of Vosne-Romanée."
For the Reds...
2019, Côtes Catalanes "Les Myrs"- 18 points
When Danjou said aérien, (airy) I realised that it was exactly the word that I was searching for. His wines are nothing quite like I have ever tasted. I want to say Pinot-like (and then he tells me, with a grin, that maybe some Pinot is Grenache-like) but that’s not honest or respectful to these quiet, silk-and-ruby, dawn-light-shaft, introvert but wholly Roussillon wines. This tastes of wild strawberries and forest mushrooms, caraway, and fennel seeds. There is a daub of farmyard, but only enough to bring tang and animal warmth. White pepper woven into the delicate sweetness of the fruit. Not attention-seeking, but if you don’t give this wine your whole attention, you’ve lost something priceless. This is a Carignan in a million!
2018, Côtes Catalanes "Les Myrs" - 18 points
Autumn leaves, bruised by rain, and bruised cherry skins, and bruised petals. This wine tastes like the memory of sweet sadness. This wine tastes like a shoebox of old photographs, damp with the shadows and the corner it’s been stored in. This wine tastes like the memory of the cherry jam you licked off a spoon standing on a stool before you were tall enough to reach the pot. It tastes like rain; two years of unswept leaves on an old porch; hand-made terracotta pots clad in lichen; the bleeding ink of a rain-tattered envelope sent too late. It is driftwood polished to satin-curve dipped in the scent of dawn rain on morello cherries. It is, absolutely, itself.
2018, Côtes Catalanes "Espurna" – 18 points
I keep using the word extraordinary, as I taste these Danjou-Banessy wines. SO floral, so perfumed, so extraordinary. This smells like the most glorious tea. A touch of cool mint, cumin and star anise, rooibos and black cardamom, nectarine skin. There are some wines you smell with your whole soul – you breathe the wine in and it builds with an urgency, a quiet insistence. This wine, with its tightly netted rich-but-honed-into-arrows fierce dark-red spiced-skin fruit, comes at you with fists and spoken rap poetry (!!! lol). It finishes like a cashmere scarf.
2019, Côtes Catalanes "La Truffière" – 17.5 points
There is a wild herb that grew in the Zimbabwean bush which we called ‘black jack’. Its leaves, crushed, gave out a pungent, sweet, bitter smell that was something of a mix of Thai basil, lovage, liquorice, fennel and coriander (cilantro). The smell of this wine reminds me of blackjack, reminds me of crashing through the bush in the summer heat, swatting mosquitoes and heading for that bald granite kopje. But the flint-flecked cranberry fruit, tart-sherbet-edged but sweetly ripe with that aciculate intensity that only rugged vines can bring, fills every corner of the palate and the bitter herbs become just a fine framework. I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that a Roussillon red can have the finesse of Vosne-Romanée. This wine has purity; it is, quite simply, diaphanous in texture. It is unique. It is has a beautiful soul.
2018, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages "La Truffière" - 17.5 points
Séb Danjou says, ‘We want slim, elegant, but not meagre. In 2018, southern wines suffered a lot of brutality, high alcohol, very big’. Carrying, like a banner, the Danjou signature florals. Rosehips, rose petals, peonies. The smell of a flower garden the morning after a storm. Red-plum skins and a very, very subtle touch of mushroom. Arched, insistent tannins that press into your skin like the coolness of a pianist’s slender hand; long, strong fingers drumming precise, silent, life-beats into the palm of your hand. Grenache sings alto, spoons cinnamon-spiced strawberries into your mouth, whispers lullabies. Carignan thrums her fingers on the off-beat, spoons marijuana brownies into your mouth, leans into you, breathes sweet smoke into the air. I taste a clear, vibrant story, but it is quietly, gently told.
2018 Côtes Catalanes Estaca - 17.5 points
Séb Danjou: ‘It always gives something which has the taste of Estaca. The taste of the earth. Granular. 2018 was very cool, so we wanted to present the wine like this, with not a lot of élevage or bottle ageing. 2018 doesn’t need to be in bottle for a long time, but it is so delicate now that we wanted people to taste it like this.
very pale. Very spicy. And very very perfumed. There is an old red rose called Mister Lincoln. It has the deep, velvet, classic perfume of a red rose. This wine smells like Mister Lincoln dusted in cardamom. It tastes of wild cherry, white pepper, pink peppercorns, Szechuan pepper, truffle and, more than anything else, rain on warm slate. Petrichor. Complex, yet almost exquisitely simple. No noise. No posturing. In one sip, you’re in this wild, beautiful vineyard, nothing but the sound of the wind through trees. Pure, transparent, yet so layered-upon-layered that you can read a thousand stories in one sip. A haiku of a wine.
2019 Côtes Catalanes Roboul – 17 points
Pale, see-through ruby. Smells like violet-scented talc. Superb, translucent, floral, night jasmine, daphne blossom. The fruit is like paper-thin, ruby-stained glass. I have it in my mouth and I don’t want to swallow, in case I break it. Wild damsons, their sweet intensity, the eye-widening pop of their acidity, their woodsy hedgerow-stemminess, their thin-skinned-but-defiant tannins. Dill. Caraway fronds. Startling elegance – have I ever tasted Mourvèdre this diaphanous? I’m pretty sure not. The finish drifts slowly away, like clouds.
2017 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages "Roboul" – 16.5 points
A little more gamey on the nose than the 2019, like rare duck breast and blood orange and fresh tarragon. Redcurrants, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, dark earth. This feels like a wine that has tucked itself into the ground, bare feet, bone-of-wine touching root-of-tree. Dried porcinis and siren-red hawthorn berries. Lick the bare-bone twigs of winter trees and the scent of wood fires and the steam of plums stewing on the stove and cold iron and moss and memories, and turn it into a liquid ruby gemstone, pour it in a glass, taste this wine.
2018 Côtes Catalanes Les Mirandes – 17 points
100% Syrah on basalt volcanic soils anjou says, with some contempt, that because it was grown in the Rhône, it was considered ‘une cépage améliorateur’ – a superior grape to the local varieties. ‘These rigid, ignorant rules have resulted in the extinction of local varieties which could now be vitally important with climate change.’ They chose to use a black label for this cuvée alone for several reasons: the colour of the Syrah (so much deeper than all their other wines), the taste (‘very wild, sauvage, black’), and because it is not a Roussillon variety. ‘This is an adoption.’ Good with game, he adds, wild-boar charcuterie. Picking depends on the year – sometimes very early.
Sweet, salty tang – I completely get what he says when he describes this wine as wild. Rooibos tea. Sweaty stallion. Ripe mulberries dropping onto a hot stone wall and charring in the midday sun. Tarmac. Controlled energy. Sumac and dried damson and black-olive tang. Purple-velvet-clad-sackcloth tannins. Black tea and wild gamey venison charcuterie. A wine that you are forced to think about; a wine that will divide the room. You’ll take sides. But it will challenge you to think.
Learn more about these incredible wines in our Q&A series with winemaker Sébastien Danjou-Banessy.
"I keep using the word extraordinary as I taste these Danjou-Banessy wines."