A small appellation located in the southern portion of the Rhône Valley, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is surrounded by Côtes du Ventoux in the south and east and Vacquerays and Gigondas to the west and north. The land is Provençal in nature, with alternating sun-baked hills and fields of scree and lavender, though the soil ranges from heavy clay to sand and gravel. Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise also produces red wines under the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation, but this region has AC status for the delicious and sweet white Vin Doux Naturels produced here.
The wines are created from the Muscat Blanc á Petits Grains, the head of the Muscat family household, and one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. There are two versions in play here, both the Blanc and a Noir varietal that tastes very similar but has a darker hue. Most of the better wines are a blend of the two. Muscat has a distinct fruity and pleasant aroma and flavor, some call it the most grapey of all the grapes. Either way, the wine produced here is deliciously sweet yet with balanced acidity, and makes for a tasty treat at either the beginning or end of a meal.
Made by a process in which the fermentation is prematurely halted by the addition of grape brandy, the wines have a high amount of residual sugar and an elevated level of alcohol, with 15% being the minimum. The grapes are harvested in late October to ensure full ripeness and sugar levels.
As recently as the 1950s Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise was in danger of dissappearing forever, but a local co-op was created and since that time the fortunes of the appellation have changed. Though the first export was jsut a short time ago in the 1970s, today Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise can be found in many parts of the world, and is generally regarded as the most consisitently fine of the vin doux naturels, if not the best.