St Jean de Minervois
This is a small and very specific area of chalky soil in the hills to the north-east of Minervois proper. It is famous for the sweet vins doux naturels made from the Muscat variety, renowned for their soft, floral, grapey character.
Vin doux naturel is made by a process called mutage which was invented in the 13th century by a doctor of medicine at Montpellier university. Grape alcohol is added to the juice part way through the fermentation to kill off the yeasts and maintain some of the natural sugars in the wine. Historically this enabled the wines to be preserved for storage and transport.
The Rousillon region south of Corbieres around Perpignan is also renowned for its vins doux, notably those of Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls. If you enjoy sweet wines a comparative tasting between these partnered with meats, cheeses and chocolate is a real treat.
The St Jean de Minervois wines are bottled carefully and quickly to preserve their fresh fruitiness and are best drunk young and chilled as an aperitif or with foie gras.
We recommend visiting the Domaine de Barroubio which has been owned by the same family for 500 years. If you visit Minerve and stop for lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the steep river gorges (try Chantovent for high-end dining, or La Table des Troubadours for good fresh pizzas), why not take in the wine-tasting at Barroubio afterwards to round off the meal?