Beaumes de Venise
Formerly part of Côtes du Rhône-Villages, this region became its own separate appellation in 2004. The appellation is most known for its fortified white Muscat wines; these styles are labeled "Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC." The basic red wines are also good, and these conventional, Grenache-based styles are gaining popularity in the United States.
The appellation comprises about 2,500 acres of planted vineyards. About 200,000 cases of wine are produced each year, which are roughly half unfortified reds and half fortified whites. Most of the wines exported are red wines.
Beaumes de Venise has as long a history as any fortified wine appellation; its wines were documented by Pliny the Elder in the first century A.D. In 1943 an appellation was created for the Muscat, with only fortified wines allowed. Dry reds were produced here, but were labeled under Côtes du Rhône and then Côtes du Rhône-Villages. In 2004 the reds were finally allowed to use the Beaumes label.
Climate and Viticulture
An unusual slope (visible in the main picture on our Rhône page) is where the Muscats are grown, which explains their unique appeal. Some of the unfortified wines are grown in more traditional areas.
At the center of this appellation is the Muscat grape. The grapy, powerful, unique fortified white wines should be drunk young for their idiosyncratic flavors. These are among the most untraditional wines of the Rhône. In contrast, the reds are produced from a more conventional combination of Grenache and Syrah, and taste like typical red Rhône blends.
The following list of five good producers contains examples of both the reds and the whites made in this appellation. These producers' wines are not only good, but also have reasonable levels of availability outside France.
- Domaine des Bernardins: This producer's solid, well-made fortified wines often have 90-point ratings, and are conveniently available in half-bottles.
- Domaine de Cassan: Cassan makes one of the best red Beaumes de Venise wines, with lush, thick flavors of fruit and spice.
- Domaine Durban: Although this producer's half-bottles are fancily labeled and pricey, the Muscats inside are worth the premium, with complex and yet delicate compositions.
- Domaine de Fenouillet: Fenouillet makes very good wines of both styles. The Muscat costs about $20 and is an essence of the appellation, with good fresh grapy flavors. The red Beaumes is great too, with broad, lush flavors of black fruit and game. The intense, earthy red Cuvée des Generations is yet better.
- Domaine de Pigeade: Acidic with bright fruit flavors, these Muscats come in half-bottles and have average prices.
This region encompasses two appellations: Beaumes de Venise AOC, for unfortified reds, and Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC, which is for fortified white wines only.