The Ratafia of my youth used to be a cordial flavoured with peach or cherry kernels, bitter almonds, or other fruits but Ratafia de Champagne is a sweet aperitif made from grape juice obtained exclusively from the Champagne region and fortified with Marc Brandy from the region. This is Champagne's version of Pineau de Charentes. Normally the grapes have been left on the vines to over ripen and dry out (passerillé) and are then crushed and fortified with the Marc.
During ageing the Ratafia acquires its mellow and bright amber colour. The syrupy flavour of the Ratafia comes from the fructose, the natural sugar contained in the grape juice. Just before the end of the process, the Ratafia is around 18° alcohol. It has the flavours of of candied fruits and citrus fruits bark. Ratafia de Champagne should always be drunk chilled and preferably without ice. It can be served as an aperitif or as a dessert wine. Try it with melon, blue cheese or foie gras.
Although the French are convinced that they coined the term Ratafia – so called because it used to be drunk at the ratification of treaties, some say that it originated in New Orleans as part of the special Creole dialect and others say that it is a combination of the words Arraq (Malay liqueur distilled from fruit, grain, sugar cane or the sap of coconut palms ) and Tafia (rum).