Rivesaltes is one of three great traditional fortified Vin Doux Naturels appellations of France, along with Banyuls and Maury. Its territory covers much of Roussillon and encompasses a panoply of altitudes, aspects, and soils, including limestone, granite, gneiss, argile-calcaire, and all manner of schists.
Not to be confused with Muscat de Rivesaltes, Rivesaltes is produced with a variety of white or red grapes: Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Macabeu, and Grenache noir are the most common.
Subsequent elevage can either be brief, bottling during the year following harvest to preserve its fresh fruit, or extended, with wines aged a minimum of three years oxidatively—and in some instances, much longer—prior to bottling. Depending on the grapes employed, this oxidative style can be referred to as either Ambré or Tuilé. These are often regarded as the most traditional—and the most exciting—wines of the Rivesaltes appellation. The rarest and most evolved expressions are sometimes labeled Rivesaltes Rancio, in which the wines develop complex, umami-like flavor profiles due to an elevage that might extend decades with little or no temperature control—indoors or outdoors, in glass demijohn and ancient barrels—and minimal ‘topping-up’.