Sweet treats with a dash of extra spirit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am


When Morgan Terigi founded France Luxe, his mission was to 'bring the diversity of France's wine regions to the doorstep of Hong Kong consumers and help them discover new wines'.

His portfolio differs from typical wine lists by not containing the ubiquitous wines from notable French wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Instead, it features a large selection of sweet fortified wines known as Vins Doux Naturels (naturally sweet wines that are fortified with spirits) from regions such as Beaumes de Venise and Rivesaltes in the southern Rhone Valley and Roussillon.

The most important grape for these wines is the muscat. Its history can be traced back to the ancient Romans as it is believed that the latter brought vine plantings of muscat to the area. There are variations of the muscat grape. Muscat blanc ? petits grains has a floral, grapey aroma according to wine authority Jancis Robinson. Muscat d'Alexandrie, a mutation of muscat, is another common grape in Roussillon. The berries are larger, and their flavours are less delicate and veer toward fruit compote. These sweet, fortified wines are made by the addition of pure grape spirit early during fermentation. This creates fresh, grapey aromas, high residual sugar (from unfermented grape sugar) of about 100 grams per litre (compares to three to eight grams per litre for chardonnay) and alcohol levels (15 per cent or more). Most are drunk young while the fruit flavours are still vibrant; some are aged to increase their complexity.

Balma Venitia Carte Rose

Made from muscat blanc ? petits grains. Delicate, salmon pink colour. A diverse range of aromatics: floral notes, strawberry and lychee. Full body, lower acidity with intense sweetness. Easy to drink. To be enjoyed for its fresh fruit; not for ageing. Can be drunk as an aperitif, or on the rocks with a slice of lemon. Will work with spicy dishes as the sweetness will balance out red chilli.

Carte Rose Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2010, HK$415

Balma Venitia Rouge Venise Made from muscat noir ? petits grains. Deep ruby colour, with vibrant cherry, black fruit notes, good balance of acid and sugar. Try this wine with Peking duck, roast suckling pig or at the end of the meal with chocolate flavoured desserts.

Rouge Venise Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, HK$490

Dom Brial Chateau Les Pins

A blend of grenache blanc and macabeu grapes. Aged in oak for an extensive time where oxidation leads to an amber colour with honeyed, spice and dried fruits. Rich, and concentrated on the palate with complex spicy notes, balanced sugar and a long finish. Try with char siu, and Shanghainese dishes such as braised pork or lion's head meat balls, or eel.

Rivesaltes Ambre 2005, HK$250

All varieties are available from france-luxe.com.hk