Wine cocktails use a variety of wine styles, from the old-school spritzer to the prosecco-based Bellini to the New York Sour’s dry red wine float. The fortified sweet wines or Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs) from Roussillon in the South of France provide a unique base for creative cocktails, thanks to their residual sugars and aromatic quality.
You could use any fortified sweet wines in cocktails, but Roussillon VDNs represent the region’s long history of innovative winemaking. Roussillon producers have been adding fortifying spirits to wine during the alcoholic fermentation since the 13th century, as a way to preserve some of the fruit’s natural sweetness. That’s how VDN was born.
There are two styles of VDNs: Young non-oxidized VDNs (white, rosé, grenat, rimage) shine in punchy and upfront cocktails with fresh, spicy, fruity and floral notes. Older oxidized VDNs (ambré, tuilé, hors d’age, rancio), best suited for leisurely sipping, can replace spirits and offer subtle and rich aromatic complexity.
Roussillon is part of the greater Languedoc-Roussillon coastal Mediterranean region, which produces about a third of France’s wine. Here are three cocktails that incorporate Roussillon VDNs.
1 ½ oz. Older oxidized VDN (such as Rivesaltes ambré, Rivesaltes tuilé, Maury Hors d’Age or Banyuls Hors d’Age)
2 tsp. Coconut syrup
2 tsp. Mangalore liqueur
2 tsp. Aged rum
2 tsp. Pineapple juice
Shake all the ingredients and pour into highball glass. Garnish with a small slice of mango and a fan of green apple slices.
Ginger Melon Basil
1 ½ oz. Young non-oxidized VDN white or rosé (such as Muscat de Rivesaltes, Maury white, Banyuls white, Rivesaltes rosé or Banyuls rosé)
2 slices Fresh ginger
½ oz. Melon puree
8 Fresh basil leaves
Muddle fresh ginger, then add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a basil leaf and melon wedge.
The Other Tastes of Wine
1 oz. Young non-oxidized red VDN grenat/rimage (such as Banyuls rimage, Maury grenat or Rivesaltes grenat)
1 oz. Gin
½ oz. Chambord
1 oz. Raspberry juice
2 dashes Absinthe, pomegranate juice or VDN grenat
Shake all the ingredients with ice and pour into Collins glass. Top up with pomegranate juice and garnish with a lemon or lime twist.