Region: Southern Rhone Valley
Price: €1.99 (severely discounted)
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is a sweet muscat-based Vins Doux Naturel produced in the Cötes de Rhöne. Vins Doux Naturel is basically a fortified wine produced in a similar fashion to port where the fermentation is stopped by the addition of neutral grape spirit which kills the yeast. Whereas ports reach alcohol levels around the 19-20% mark a typical Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is normally fortified to just over 15%.
There are currently 489 hectares under vine in this AOC producing Muscat blanc à petits grains (small berried Muscat), also known as ‘Muscat de Frontignan’. The grapes must have a sugar content of at least 252 g/l and the mutage (or stopping of 95 proof. The wines must contain 110g/l of sugar and have a minimum alcohol percentage of 15%.
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise has a long history with sources mentioning a muscat-based being produced here in the 1st century A.D. (Pliny the Elder descried the Muscat of this region as this lively and fruity wine, long cultivated at Balme in his natural history). Later, in the fourteenth century, Pope Clement V, had a 70 hectare muscat vineyard planted on the slopes of the Beaumes-de-Venise. In 1945 the decree dedicating the title of A.O.C., backdated to 1943, was awarded to Beaumes-de-Venise Vin Doux Naturel Muscat.
Thierry Vaute is the name behind Domaine de la Pigeade, a family domaine located at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain ridge in Southern Rhone. Thierry's family vineyard was formerly part of the local village co-operative until he took over the domaine in 1996. He decided to go it alone and has spent the past seven years improving the vineyards, renovating the winery buildings, reducing the yields and increasing the quality of his wines. It certainly appears to be paying dividends as my tasting note will attest: