Muscat de Rivesaltes is the largest single sweet wine appellation in France, covering a total of 99 communes. Muscat de Rivesaltes wines are made predominantly from Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains and Muscat d'Alexandrie in varying ratios, according to the style desired by the individual producer. Muscat d'Alexandrie is an ancient grape that originated in North Africa, and the name is probably derived from its association with Ancient Egyptians who used the grape for wine making. It is said that Cleopatra drank muscat wine from this grape.
Rivesaltes is an appellation that is geographically identical with the appellation Muscat de Rivesaltes but it differs in terms of the permitted grape varieties in that they are not restricted to Muscat. The wines are red or white, and made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat d´Alexandrie, Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Macabeau and Tourbat (Malvoisie du Roussillon), also, a maximum of 10% of Carignan, Cinsaut, Palomino and Syrah may be added to the blend. Of the approximately one dozen different Vins Doux Naturels in France (of which 8 are in the Languedoc Roussillon region), Rivesaltes accounts for 50%.
There are different types of Rivesaltes:
A very fruit-driven and accessible style with a rich, deep colour; grenat refers to the garnet-red hue. A minimum 75% Grenache, minimum one year in wood, three months in bottle before release.
As the name suggests, an amber hue. This is produced from the white varieties, and is then aged oxidatively in wood for at least two years, hence the deepening of the colour.
This wine is handled in a similar manner to the Ambre, with a minimum two years ageing in wood producing an oxidative style, but here the varieties used are red, with a minimum of 50% Grenache in the blend.
Rivesaltes Hors d'Age
This description may be applied to the two categories immediately above, producing Ambre Hors d'Age and Tuilé Hors d'Age. Wines must have spent at least five years in wood before bottling.
A description applied to wine that has, through élevage in wood and oxidative handling, developed the goût de rancio that typifies the wines of Rivesaltes.