Kulers Uncorked: The Best Wine Ever...Yes, Ever!

2009 Gérard Bertrand Banyuls, Frances. Contributed by Gil Kulers

Many of you know me as the mild-mannered reporter who periodically writes about wine in these columns. I confess today that I’ve been harboring a secret for, lo, these past 10 years. This decade-long charade has been a cover for my quest to find the perfect wine.

Not a 100-point wine, whatever that is. No, the perfect wine transcends scoring of mere mortals and stands alone unblemished on the pedestal of enological excellence. (Kind of like the wine equivalent of Michelangelo’s David, only not as naked.)

Now, I can announce my quest is at its end. The world’s most perfect wine is: Banyuls.

What don’t Banyuls wines have going for them? They can be consumed before, during and after dinner. They can be served at room temperature, but many (including myself) prefer them a little chilled. They are neither a red or white wine as most winemakers blend red grapes (grenache and carignon) with white grapes, such as grenache blanc, grenache gris and viura, among others. They have the incalculable cool factor in that they have been produced since the 13th century. They don’t readily spoil and are fairly inexpensive.

At this point, there are perhaps a few of you that may be asking yourselves: “How am I not even familiar with the world’s most perfect wine and just what the heck is Banyuls?”

Banyuls is a type of wine made in southwestern France. It takes its name from the coastal Mediterranean town of Banyuls-sur-Mer, about 120 miles north of Barcelona, Spain. It is a vin doux naturel, which means a naturally sweet wine. Fermentation is stopped by adding neutral spirits, leaving behind a whole bunch of unfermented sugars.

Why are you not familiar with Banyuls? We really should be asking what boat did this lackadaisical wine correspondent miss to overlook such greatness when it has always been right under his nose?

It took a colleague of mine (for anonymity’s sake, we’ll call him Michael Venezia) to reintroduce me to this magnificent wine. As with so many great discoveries (and re-discoveries), it came over lunch. At the end of said repast, which took place at Cibo e Beve, located in Sandy Springs, Venezia brought out a bottle of 2009 Gérard Bertrand Banyuls. I’d say I enjoyed it with chef Linda Harrell’s delicious blackberry tart, but “enjoy” just doesn’t cut it. I had one of those one-of-a-kind food/wine experiences that can make our short time on this small blue marble in space so pleasant at times.

Venezia confessed that he, too, had kind of forgotten about Banyuls and that is what inspired him to bring a bottle to lunch, so we could reacquaint ourselves with this wine’s rich, spicy, chocolaty, dark berry wonderfulness. It would seem that many wine professionals have lost touch with this classic wine as many shops and restaurants have merely one or none.

So, now what? I’ve found the perfect wine. Game over? Of course, that was my perfect wine. I guess I will keep my quill and ink in working order and continue to help you find your perfect wine.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at gil.kulers@winekulers.com.

  • 2009 Gérard Bertrand Banyuls, France
  • $25
  • Golden Thumb Award

Pleasant aromas of ripe blackberries, toasted almonds and milk chocolate. Flavors followed the aromas, but also with a note of spicy black pepper, vanilla bean, butterscotch, fresh golden raisins and plums. Velvety and balanced on the palate, it offered a pleasant lingering finish.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.