While on Summer vacation in the Pyrenees Orientales, I saw Muscat or Banyuls served as an aperitif time and again.
I had a chance to refresh my memories at the Sud de France tasting.
The Muscat Saint Jean de Minervois 'Les Petits Grains' (Non Vintage, 375ml) will please your guests and your wallet as it retails for around $11.
It is produced by the local cooperative which describes their Muscat as born from stone and sun.
It is sweet, luscious and slighly fortified.
The grape is Muscat blanc a petit grand which Winegeeks suggest is "probably the oldest known wine producing grape, being the first in such prestigious areas such as Piedmont, Alsace and indeed France as a whole. Found throughout the Mediterranean and revered for its heavy perfume that attracts bees and flies, possibly explaining the name (Musca is latin for 'flies'). This small berried-varietal ripens early and can be quite versatile producing wines from light and dry, to slightly sweet and sparkling, to heavy, rich and thick with honey, all from various colors of skin that range from golden to pink to dark red."
Besides pastries, Winedrop (whose picture of the Muscat Saint Jean is my illustration) suggests this would be a great match for foie gras or pate.
I had a chance to break my back, cut my fingers and enjoy the wonderful views of Banyuls while working there during the harvest.
For old times sake, I have to mention the Clos de Paulilles, Banyuls, Rimage (2005).
It is 100% Grenache Noir which explains its deep purple robe, intense jammy flavors balanced by chocolate and pepper tones.
It will not leave you indifferent.
The vineyard surrounds the bay of Paulilles and I learned from K&L Wines that "Rimage is a Catalan word which means vintage. Therefore a rimage Banyuls is a fortified wine in which all grapes come from a certain vintage, much like a Colheita or vintage Port."
Retails for $25 or less.
Put a little sun in your glass