DOMAINE DES BERNARDINS
Domaine des Bernardins is located in the Southern Rhône village of Beaumes-de-Venise, best recognised for its sweet fortified wines, aka vins doux naturels. Made from the variety Muscat à Petits Grains, these wines were first recorded as being produced in the area in Roman times.
The Bernardins winery is currently managed by the fifth generation of the Castaud family. The name was taken from the Bernardin monks who originally established the estate, with the oldest wine still enshrined in the cellar a Muscat from 1847.
A sustainable approach is employed in the management of the vineyards, with a focus on biodiversity that includes the cultivation of olive, almond and cypress trees, wild rosemary and capers. The Mediterranean climate provides the warmth required to mature the white Muscat variety and Bernardin’s main red variety, Grenache.
What’s noticeable as you drive up to the winery door is the lack of wind; while the mistral can blow its way through many parts of the Rhône, here the Dentelles de Montmirail massif provides shelter from the wind and contributes to the unique microclimate.
Both blanc and rouge varieties of Muscat à Petits Grains are planted, the latter resulting in the slight pink tinge to the Muscat Beaumes de Venise that Bernardins make. An official appellation (AOC) was awarded to these vin doux naturel styles in 1945.
The grapes are picked with sugar at around 252 g/L. Fermentation at Bernardins is natural, with nothing added. The fermentation is stopped with the addition of a grape spirit that is 95% ABV. The resulting wines sit at 100g residual sugar with an ABV of 15%.
In 2005, an AOC for red wines was granted. These wines must have a minimum of 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah 25%, with other varieties, including Mourvèdre, making up the rest. There can also be a 10% inclusion of white varieties.
The wines are crafted in concrete tanks, and left for 15 days to gently extract colour and tannins. No oak used in the maturation process, these naturally-inspired reds fruity, fragrant and delicious when slightly chilled on a warm summer day.