Situated in the middle of the Rhône Valley wine regions, Clairette de Die produces a sweet, lightly sparkling wine. Unlike Champagne, this is a naturally sparkling wine, though one with lower pressure that did not require the technological advance of the stronger Champagne bottle and corking methods. (Also a bit odd: the local rules establish a maximum content of 25% Clairette, with a minimum of 75% Muscat. Why not call it Muscat de Die?)
While this is my first time trying wine from this particular AOC, it was instantly familiar and I can see why it's being promoted now. In flavor, alcohol content, and sweetness, it is almost identical to the Italian Moscato d'Asti, which has become hugely popular here in the US. Sparkling Muscat wines are popping up from all sorts of places, and I've reviewed examples from Spain, Australia, Brazil, and Moldova. France can not be accused of just now jumping on the bandwagon, this style of wine has been made in the Die region for some two thousand years and was written about by Pliny the Elder.
NV Jaillance Cuvée Impériale
Clairette de Die AOC
90% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, 10% Clairette Blanche
$17, 7% abv.
Aromas of honey, peach nectar, and a slight musky undertone are present from the start. The wine is quite sweet, and just barely fizzy--enough to produce a small head of foam but not enough to really tickle your palate. While the alcohol level is very low (some beers are stronger), the sweetness creates a bigger body than you'd expect. I enjoyed it after dinner with soft white cheese and fresh strawberries, and it would make for a great dessert wine at a date if your significant other has a sweet tooth.
Note: This wine was received as a sample.