Beaumes de Venise, an attractive village in Vaucluse, next to Vacqueyras and Gigondas, was upgraded to AOC status in 2005 for its good-quality, medium-bodied, fleshy, peppery reds. It is a region, however, that remains better known for its sweet, fortified Muscats which have their own AOC: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
The reds are soft but have a good structure, and thus need a couple of years to mature. They are made from at least 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah with the rest from various other varieties, up to 5% of which can be white. White and rosé wines are also made here but are classified as Côtes du Rhône.
Apart from the sparkling wines of Clairette de Die this is the only part of the Rhône which uses Muscat, and yet it provides the most elegant, sweet fortified Muscats in the world. Little sweet Muscat was made before 1945 when Muscat de Beaumes de Venise was classified an AOC for its vin doux naturel, but by the 1970s and 1980s its popularity in northern Europe was probably greater than Sauternes or sweet German wines.
Despite its minimum 15% alcohol, low acidity and intense sweetness Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is surprisingly delicate and refreshing with a lovely floral fragrance and sweet, pale-gold, grapey fruit. Made exclusively from the best variety, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, it is made by adding pure grape spirit to the must when it has reached 5% alcohol. It should be drunk as young as possible, lightly chilled, either as an aperitif, with or after dessert (where it makes a very good match for ice-cream).
Recommended Producer: Domaine de Durban