Domaine de Durban, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, 2007
Available at Domaine Franey Wines
Retail cost: approximately $20 (375 ml)
Every spring as children we would patiently wait for the honeysuckle in our backyard to bloom so that we could work over the bush like hummingbirds, diligently extracting droplets of nectar from the center of the blossoms. Each droplet revealed a tender dewlike sweetness, a tiny gift for those who knew how to open the honeysuckle properly. The other night I tasted a French dessert wine, or a vin doux naturel (VDN), that very nearly captured that splendid honeysuckle nectar quality.
Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is from the southern Rhône Valley, by the slopes around the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail (Laces of Montmirail). Les Dentelles are jagged limestone rocks jutting out of the plain like a very large and strange set of teeth and are said to reflect the sun’s warmth back down over the vines, giving them an extra level of juicy ripeness.
In addition to the honeysuckle character, the Durban Beaumes de Venise also shows a very pretty mandarin orange nose and a bright citrusy finish. It is here, in the finish, that we find the wow factor for this Beaumes de Venise. The racy finish creates a particularly refreshing quality rather than an overly cloying impression, which sets it apart from other VDNs.
Unlike Sauternes, which is a late-harvest dessert wine, vin doux naturel is a fortified wine made using the mutage technique, whereby its fermentation is deliberately arrested by adding alcohol, resulting in a mixture of wine, unfermented grape juice and the added grape spirit. The same technique is used to make port and Madeira, although it is not referred to by the same name. While it is much lower in price than a Sauternes, the Beaumes de Venise will pair well with many of the same types of foods as would a Sauternes.
Enjoy it with fruit-based desserts, all types of cheeses and even foie gras.