Oenologie - Tout savoir sur le vin doux naturel français - Les Grappes

All you need to know about French natural sweet wine

A bit of history

Discover wines with an almost infinite ageing capacity. It is in the South of France that you can discover the natural sweet wines. These are sweet red or white wines. Its name could lead to confusion because some people think that these wines are more "natural" in their elaboration process. However, these wines are made according to traditional French methods. The only difference is during fermentation. Indeed, an alcohol at 90° is added to the grape juice. This one is called brandy. When this strong alcohol is added, the wines are said to be "mutated".

This "mutage" increases the level of alcohol. This stops the action of the yeasts and keeps a certain amount of sugar in the wine. It is said to be a "sweet" wine because of its sweetness. After mutage, the wines are kept away from the air to preserve the fruit aromas present. It is said to be natural because no product is added to flavour the wine.

It is necessary to know that the natural sweet wines are to be consumed with moderation. Indeed they are much more alcoholic than normal wines. Their alcohol content is between 15° and 21.5°. The invention of natural sweet wines dates back to the 13th century. When Arnaud de Vilanova from Roussillon succeeded in creating wines rich in both alcohol and sugar, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the cradle of these wines. It still ensures nowadays more than 95% of the production of natural sweet wines.

Food and wine pairing

This wine goes perfectly with dark chocolate-based desserts such as chocolate mousse, chocolate cake or chocolate fondant. However, the chocolate must be low in sugar and high in cocoa. Natural sweet wines can also be enjoyed as an aperitif as well as with foie gras, cheeses and even spicy Asian cuisine! This wine is best when it is not served too chilled, it allows to keep all its precious aromas!

The appellations

Several regions of France produce natural sweet wines. These wines are obtained in Languedoc-Roussillon, particularly in the Pyrénées Orientales. But also in Corsica and in the Rhone valley. Muscat-de-Rivesaltes and Banyuls are the best known appellations.

Languedoc-Roussillon :

In this region, we produce the AOC Muscat (de Lunel, de Frontignan, de Mireval and Saint-Jean de Minervois), Clairette du Languedoc, Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru, Maury, and Muscat de Rivesaltes.

Rhone Valley :

There are two natural sweet wine appellations in this region: the AOC Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and Rasteau.

Corsica:

The appellation Muscat du Cap-Corse and Muscat de Corse is produced here.

The different grape varieties

The Languedoc produces natural sweet wines, mainly from Muscat. Only four grape varieties are used to make the wines: Muscat, Grenache (white, black, grey), Malvoisie, Macabeu (for red wines). These grape varieties give the wines tertiary aromas of blond tobacco, leather, coffee and cocoa.

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