Beaumes de Venise
Domaine des Bernardins
Beaumes de Venise received its Cru status back in 1945 (for the Muscat based dessert wines) and it was the current Bernardins owner’s father who was in the vanguard of promoting the villages interests – and Bernardins the first wine of the new Cru aoc. Today this 22ha estate is run by Andrew and Elizabeth Hall , aided by their son Romain, who is now taking over full responsibility for the winemaking. There are 17ha of Muscat, 2ha of red Beaumes dee Venise (Cru since 2005) and 3.5ha of Cotes du Rhone. The reds are very agreeable in a lighter fresh style but its the dessert wines that are the stars here. At Bernardins the wines are made from a 80/20 blend of white to black Muscat à Petits Grains grapes, the resultant wine taking on a gorgeous amber color and aromas of apricot and candied fruit and honey. Most BdeV producers advocate drinking the wines young, Bernardins uniquely encourage cellaring of their wine – having kept a magnum of their tradition for a decade I can testify to the merit of this strategy – evolution brings out exotic Christmas aroma and tastes of fig, dates, honey and fruit cake. In high volume years a dry version of the Muscat named Doré is produced – an interesting wine ( fabulous value as it has to be made at Vin de Pays level), heady aromas of ripe table grapes, a full body and impression of sweetness from the ripe fruit but technically bone dry. A haut de gamme VDN wine – “Hommage”- is also produced from blended vintages and with deliberate oxidation – mahogany colored and viscous this is closer to a Madeira in style and is a firm favourite on our Christmas table.
The domaine of Chateau Redortier is located just off the winding road that takes you up to Suzette in the middle of the Dentelles de Montmirail.. The D road is spectacular enough but when you take the turning to Redortier the tiny road snakes up another 150 metres giving superb views across to the craggy limestone teeth of the west escarpment. This 35 hectare estate was founded in the mid-60’s by Etienne de Menthon, initially part of the Beaumes de Venise co-op but from 1981 making its own wine.
The principle winemaker is now daughter Isabelle and her sister. Their range of wines includes a Gidondas . . . elegant spicy character . . .and some of the best Beaumes-de-Venise Villages reds of the appellation. They also own some land down on the flat towards Sarrian from which they make a refreshing Vin du Pays du Vaucluse. The de Menthon philosophy embraces lutte raisonnee, hand harvesting, very light filtration and most importantly a complete bar on wood maturation.
The wines spend up to 24 months in concrete cuves prior to bottling. There is a relatively high percentage of syrah here, 40% in all the red cuvees, even 60% in the Prestige special cuvee. I first came across their wines at a restaurant in Covent Garden (the deliciously soft 2003) over a very pleasant lunch with La Madelène executive coaching partner Binki Taylor and her husband. Imagine my delight at finding the same wine on my own doorstep. Actually, Isabelle tells me that though the 2003 is a wonderful wine, the 2004 is even better, a vrai vin du gard. On tasting she is perhaps right – the same flavour palate of dark plums, black cherry, and spice but with a great deal more tannic structure. Some critics were a bit dubious at the elevation of Beaumes-de-Venise to full cru status but doubters should get hold of a case or two of these wines . . . they are stunners.
If you want to try for yourself Jereboams in the UK stock the 2003 at a very reasonable £7.45 whilst Redortier wines are to be found in the US from Woodland Hills Wine Co. and Wine House – both these located in California.