Limoux is More Than What Most People Think : Part 1

photo credit : mets-vins.fr

photo credit : mets-vins.fr

Limoux is a little town in the western region of Languedoc, in Southern France. It is also the name of a wine appellation centered around the town, mainly known for its sparkling wine. Unfortunately, too many people believe that all of the wines from that area are mediocre (thank you supermarkets!). After a week of countless tastings in different wineries, I can assure that some of them make extremely pleasant wines.

Limoux is generally known for its “Blanquette”. As the story goes, this sparkling wine has existed since 1531 when a monk, in the abbey of Saint-Hilaire, found out that his wine was getting bubbly in the bottle. The sparkling wine method was born, even before being mastered in Champagne.

Blanquette is a blend made essentially (90%) with the rare Mauzac variety, that only grows in Limoux and in another vineyard to the west. Its natural acidity makes it well suited for sparkling wines. I noticed a typical apple/pear aroma as well as a light bitterness in the aftertaste. The rest of the blend consists of Chardonnay and Chenin.

There are two kinds of Blanquette : the ancestral one which is made with the old method and a more modern version, produced with the Champagne method.

I was stunned when I learned the mysterious process to make the ancestral Blanquette. At first, the must ferments until obtaining 5 or 6% of alcohol. This wine is then bottled in March during the old moon, it gets bubbly and reaches 6 or 7% of alcohol. This phase is critical, as it only works at that time of the year with that particular moon.

The final type of Limoux sparkling wine is called Crémant. Its style is more contemporary with more flesh in its body, and a little more balance than most Blanquettes. Also produced with the Champagne method, its only difference with Blanquette is its blend which usually consists in 90% of Chardonnay and Chenin, and 10% of Pinot Noir and Mauzac. I’ve been pleased by the quality of some of those wines. Some are by far better than most low-end Champagnes available out there, for a much cheaper price. Some clients of mine understand that and get a case of quality crémant instead of 2-3 bottles of supermarket Champagne

A word about still wines: red wines are, for the most part, average. On the other hand, some white wines (made majorly with Chardonnay) are really enjoyable.

The climate and soils in Limoux are not that easy to understand. I have rarely, if not ever, seen a region with so many climatic influences. Limoux is located at a crossroads between the oceanic, the Mediterranean and the mountains climate conditions. That means that you could produce a certain type of wine somewhere and yet you could never expect the same results one mile away.

All of the hills make up for a beautiful scenery and a truly beautiful region. The soils are poor, not very deep, and covered with white loose rocks. This limestone base is very interesting to grow grapes such as Mauzac and Chardonnay.

In part 2, I’ll review some of my tastings.

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