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About Fortified Wine
Vin Doux Naturel [naturally sweet wine] was defined as a specific wine category in 1898 by Brousse law.
Originally developed by alchemist Arnaud de Ville-Neuve back in the 1200s, the term refers to a fortified wine in which the natural level of sweetness is such that fortification with a spirit is added before the end of the fermentation process, resulting in a wine that is naturally sweet with residual grape sugars.
The discovery of this method, called mutuage, is attributed to Arnaud de Ville-Neuve, a doctor of medicine at the University of Montpellier in the late 13th century. Several wines are made according to this method, some red, some white.
This category is associated with the Rousillion area of France, where Rivesaltes and Muscat Rivesalte are made. These are the oldest known fortified wines in the world. The dry and windy climate help to concentrate the sweetness in the grapes.
Most vins doux naturel, excepting Muscat Rivesalte, are aged in old oak barrels, and sometimes exposed to the sun in demi johns to concentrate flavours.