|Arnaud de Villeneuve, or to give him the name he is known in English, Arnaldus de Villa Nova was a fourteenth century alchemist, astrologer and physician. He is credited with the discovery of pure alcohol and the creation of fortified wines, as well as writing a wine book called the ‘Liber de Vinis’. This book was less of a guide and written more from a medical viewpoint. Having been credited with the creation of fortified wines, Arnaud no doubt seemed an appropriate figure to use as the figurehead for the ‘premium’ range by Les Vignobles du Rivesaltais (the Rivesaltes local co-operative). Les Vignobles du Rivesaltais is made up of three wineries all based at the foot of the Pyrenees on the edge of the Mediterranean coast.
The co-op makes wine from over twenty traditional varieties including Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Merlot, Macabeu, Chardonnay, and Muscat. Their growers all follow “agriculture raisonnée” a sort of semi-organic practice where the growers all try to be as natural as possible and use as little chemicals as possible without being fully organic.
There are more than six different types of Rivesaltes: Grenat, Ambré, Tuilé, Hors d’Age (both Tuilé & Ambré) and Rancio. They are all fortified during the fermentation, leaving them with a natural sweetness. This wine is an Hors d’Age Ambré which translates as an ‘amber over aged’ wine, the wine can be aged in oak barrels and “bonbonnes” (large glass vessels) or a combination of the two. Hors d’Age generally means that not only has the wine been aged for more than five years, but at least some of the wine will have been aged oxidatively giving it that ‘rancio’ style that you find in Sherry or Madeira.