This vin doux naturel ("VDN") or fortified wine makes a lovely alternative to port or to a dessert wine. Whereas dessert wines are produced when yeasts naturally stop the fermentation process leaving sugars in a wine of normal alcoholic strength, VDNs, like port, are fortified with a neutral grape spirit which stops fermentation before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol. The wine therefore retains some sugar though is less sweet than a dessert wine and has alcoholic strength between 15% and 18%, in this instance 16.5%. Port is usually closer to 20%.
This VDN from Rasteau in the Southern Rhône is produced from Grenache, a black grape known for its sweet fruits, soft tannins and high alcohol. The vines in this family-owned vineyard are on average 80 years old and produce very low yields which means flavours are concentrated. Domaine Grand Nicolet with consulting help from Rhône expert and "terroir" enthusiast Philippe Cambie, practice minimalist intervention in the vineyard.
Some Rasteau VDNs are made in an oxidised style displaying more nutty, roasted flavours (think tawny port or madeira in style); this "Grenat" or garnet Rasteau VDN is not oxidised but fresh and fruity - black fruits, dark ripe plums, stewed plums - with notes of warm spices, chocolate and raisins. The tannins are soft so hardly noticeable; this is a lovely, smooth wine with a long, warming finish.
This wine comes in a 50cl bottle. The wine may be aged for up to ten years and will gradually develop nutty aromas. Drink young to enjoy the fruity flavours.
This lovely wine is only available as a one-bottle gift pack.
A lovely accompaniment to desserts (including chocolate desserts, fruit-based desserts and rich Christmas pudding) and cheese, including ripe soft cheeses, goats cheese and full-flavoured blue cheeses.