Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise wines are sweet Muscat-based wines from the village of Beaumes-de-Venise, in France's Rhone Valley. It is the home of the famous Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise sweet white wines, which have been made here since the 14th century. They were granted their own controlled appellation in 1945. The village's red wines are sold under the Beaumes-de-Venise appellation created for them in 2005.
(© Christophe Grilhé)
Beaumes-de-Venise is just south of the Gigondas appellation and east of Vacqueyras. The three villages are separated by a 1650-ft (500-m) outcrop of limestone, part of the jagged Dentelles de Montmirail foothills. It is on the slopes of this outcrop that some of the better Beaumes-de-Venise vineyards are found. Facing south and south-east, these benefit from excellent exposure to sunlight throughout the day, encouraging maximum phenolic ripeness in the Muscat grapes (Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains) from which the sweet wines are made. On the lower-lying land below, the soils are alluvial and the vineyards produce less-intense, more-delicate styles of wine, unaffected by the intense sunlight of the slopes. The best sites are in areas with limestone soils, with a high proportion of stones to help drainage.
The wines made under the Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise appellation are created through the traditional process of arrested fermentation, to produce what is known in French as a vin doux naturel (naturally sweet wine). This technique is based around the addition of grape spirit (at a minimum of 96 degrees proof) to the semi-fermented grape must, killing the yeasts and thus stopping the fermentation. This results in a high level of residual sugar and increases the alcohol content (to about 15%). The finished wines are pale gold when young, with delicate vegetal notes and hints of tropical fruits. With age, they develop a rich golden hue and acquire more-prominent flavors of honey, dried apricot and raisins. These wines were extremely popular in late-20th-century Europe, rivaling the more expensive sweet wines of Bordeaux.