Muscat Beaumes de Venise: Summer Magic

Muscat Beaumes de Venise is a light and sweet nectar of the Gods, with an aroma of rose petals and tropical fruit and a taste of candied oranges dripping with honey. It makes me glad for summer, because it is the perfect summer dessert wine.

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Hailing from the Rhône, Muscat Beaumes de Venise is made from the highest quality Muscat grapes, Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains, and the best producers grow at higher altitudes. The sweet grapes grow even sweeter high on the sunny hills, taking on exotic qualities that make for a compelling drink in the glass.

Muscat Beaumes de Venise is classified as a “Vin Doux Natural”. I put that in quotation marks as it seems a misnomer to me. Instead of the fermentation stopping naturally as the term suggests, fermentation is stopped at about 15% alcohol by the addition of alcohol, which kills the yeast. This leaves residual sugar in the wine, making for a sweet dessert wine. The secret to this wine, however is that it has a bit less residual sugar than some other Muscats, making it lighter on the palate and very amenable to food pairings.

I’ve always enjoyed dessert wines, but have usually found Port to be too rich for my taste. I first tasted Beaumes de Venise at Etta’s, a restaurant in the Pike Place Market. They make wonderful salads in the summer and we had stopped in after doing our shopping to rest up before heading home to make jam. Wanting something a bit sweet after lunch, our server recommended this wine. I caught the heady aroma as she placed the glass in front of me and leaned forward to breathe deeply, enchanted by the floral and tropical fruit notes as well as an ineffable refreshing top note that I could not describe. The first sip was transformative, the kind of rare bliss that literally sends a shiver down my spine. Oranges, honey, passion fruit and… orange blossoms – that was the note I found in the aroma. It reminded me of a spring evening that I spent wandering through flowering orange groves in Phoenix.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.