Vins Doux Naturels: Expanding the possibilities of Languedoc-Roussillon value wines

the wine doctor map of languedoc roussillon official appellation vin doux naturel aocThe sweet wines of the Midi, known as Vins Doux Naturels, face a dwindling demand these days. Though there is a rich heritage behind them, these unique wines are losing out to the vast production of red, white and rosé wine from Languedoc-Roussillon. So it's a bit of a paradox that these specialized wines, which expand the possibilities for the adventurous wino, eventually limit options. That's because of their obscurity. "Why not just have a Port or a Madeira?" is what you might often end up hearing.

This is a classic catch-22. Port wine -- which was invented using the same technique that was innovated for Vin Doux Naturel -- steals away many potential drinkers of Maury or Banyuls, for instance.

Just last night, I had some Port after dinner rather than a Midi Muscat. While I got to taste some Muscat de Rivesaltes on the weekend, it can be hard to find friends interested in sharing a bottle of Vin Doux Naturel. As is the wont these days, one turns to the Internet when such is the case...

My virtual drinking buddy in Brooklyn who runs Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog can share his experience tracking down some Banyuls in the greater metropolitan area of New York. He'll tell you it's all about location, location, location, but more importantly, he also reviews the Domaine du Mas Blanc Banyuls that he eventually finds. B'guy also talks about Maury's sweet wines and garners a lot of interesting feedback in the comments. All in all, another fine post from Brooklynguy and some really helpful reading material for WBW 33. Thanks B'guy! Your hard work and fine effort are always rewarding.

So Vins Doux Naturels are obscure wine products because they typically do not get exported and distributed widely like the more popular styles of wine do. Since we're on the topic of economics, I'll admit that these sweet wines are not likely the Langudoc-Roussillon wines most associated with the best values for your everyday, typical wine drinker.

Though these are interesting and historic wines of the Midi, they were not what I originally had in mind for the theme of WBW 33. Nevertheless, you should feel free to check them out. And if you haven't tried any Vins Doux Naturels before, why not open a bottle instead of Port next time you get the chance?


With all this talk of new, off-the-beaten-path wines and obscure appellations, the time has come to update my original listing of official wine designations of Languedoc-Roussillon -- the only designations that are allowed for the WBW theme of Mid-priced wines from the Midi. (After all, I did promise I would add the missing appellations to my "top ten" ones.)

This means that all the sweet wine called vin doux naturel, all the country wine of the vin de pays ilk, and all the officially recognized appellations of the Languedoc-Roussillon region are now committed to a single nicely alphabetized list of eligibility for WBW 33. I call it the Master List...

... see if your potential WBW 33 bottle makes the cut!


Brooklynguy said...

Wow Marcus, I'm blushing! Thanks for the kind words...

Marcus said...

Now I'm tempted to track down a Banyuls of my own -- easier in Montreal than the Big Apple maybe, but there's only one bottle of the one that I want left in the city.

It's the Domaine Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls and you've inspired me to call up and reserve the last one. I'm picking it up tomorrow. TGIF B'guy!

Joe said...

So, just curious, I cannot get Lenn to respond to my email. I requested to host a WBW - no rush, whenever, but he won't reply. Is there a secret password or something?

Marcus said...


No secret password. I'm not sure how long it took for me to get a response from Lenn, but maybe he is getting ready to get caught up on WBW matters. I see that March's WBW 31 is last one added to his list so maybe you're in a WBW workload queue.

Hey, I just got myself a free ticket to get into the wines of New Zealand expo on Tuesday night at Marché Bonsecours. Funny since I was recently talking to Neil and Lenn on the B'guy Wine and Fine Blog about minimizing potential conflicts with WBW 33. Those two are off to a New York wine expo on May 16, which is of course WBW day. As the host of WBW 33, it looks like I'm even worse for switching my focus to a totally different style of wine on the eve of the big day.

Sonadora said...

Marcus, I have bad news. We've had a death in the family and have to take a trip to CA for the funeral and will be away from the computer and wine during WBW.

I even went to the wine shop twice last week with your lists in hands to get my bottle and one day they were unexpectedly closed and the other day the "public" parking was closed for a private event and I couldn't get to the store.

I'm so sorry, I know I promised to play this time and I have been avidly reading your blog to learn about these wines, but I just can't get a bottle and write about it given our quick 48 hours in and out to the West Coast.

Marcus said...


It's nice of you to write. Now I won't wonder what happened to you when your entry never comes in -- and, of course, I understand entirely.

I would hope that you can focus on your family, rather than blogs and wine at this time.