The Languedoc's Sparkling Wine Secrets, Revealed

Move over for Limoux.

 


I have a theory. Easy to pronounce and easy to remember names help drive wine sales. Hence, Prosecco, the Italian sparkler has taken our shelves by storm, Picpoul de Pinet, the easy drinking white from the south of France has seen sales sky rocket, and Pinot Grigio has simply rewritten the script. And now, I have an exclusive for Snoothers. The next wine to rock our shelves is Limoux, that’s Limoo to you and me. It’s easy to say, sounds good and, it tastes good too! Sparkling wine is a popular choice the world over and whilst Blanquette de Limoux has been sitting quietly in our wine shops for years, it’s Cremant de Limoux that I’m tipping for sparkling stardom. Limoux Chardonnay (non bubbly) is also my hot tip. “Where’s Limoux?”, I hear you say. It’s in the Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France, the region that’s set between the steep slopes of the Pyrenees, the foothills of the Cevennes, the Mediterranean coast and the mighty River Rhone.
The vineyards therefore benefit from a diversity of soils, climates and altitudes. Located around the town of Limoux, (surprise, surprise), the vineyards are not a million miles from the must-see town of Carcassonne and sitting in the Pyrenean foothills are higher and cooler than those of any other Languedoc-Roussillon appellation. The result is a wine that’s light in colour and weight on the palate with crisp mouthwatering acidity; just right for sparkling wine.

The difference between Blanquette de Limoux and Cremant de Limoux? Traditional Blanquette de Limoux can be made from three grapes; Mauzac, the local variety which must constitute at least 90% of the wine, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Blanquette is the local name for Mauzac, meaning “little white one”, a reference to the underside of the leaves getting a white downy underside and not to the size of the grape itself….a question coming to a pub quiz near you! 
 
Getting slightly technical, the grape varieties are vinified separately before blending and bottling. Then, similar to Champagne, a little sugar and a touch of yeast is added to produce a second fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a little more alcohol and carbon dioxide gas which, not being able to escape the sealed bottle becomes an integral part of the wine. Presto, we have a sparkling wine that, if it’s made in the Limoux region from authorized grapes, can carry the name ‘Blanquette de Limoux’. 
 
I tasted Antech’s Blanquette de Limoux Brut Nature recently and wow….the dry, sharp, fresh, edgy apple flavours with their earthy tones were a bit of a shock for the ol’ taste buds but it made for a wonderful aperitif and then went on to lift the fish course. Having no added sweetness it can be called ‘Brut Nature’; ‘Ultra Brut’ and ‘Brut Zero’ are other names for no- sugar sparklers. 
 
Cremant de Limoux was introduced in 1990 primarily to allow producers to introduce more Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc into the blend to create more internationally recognized flavors into Limoux bubbly. ‘Cremant’ must be made from up to 90 percent Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc with Pinot Noir (a red grape but don’t forget it has white juice) and/or Mauzac making up the balance. Cremant de Limoux can be white or rosé.
 
At the same tasting, Jean-Claude Mas’ Cremant de Limoux ‘Prima Perla’ Brut proved popular. Made from Chardonnay (60%), Chenin Blanc (20%), Pinot Noir (10%) and Mauzac (10%), this crisp, light, apple citrus sparkler will bring a smile to your face. The Prima Perla Rose is also well worth a pour; Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (20%) and Pinot Noir (10%) get together to produce great color and cracking, fresh summer fruits to get any BBQ hopping.
 
Talking still (no bubble) wine, Limoux Blanc is traditionally made from Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes but it’s the latter that’s finding fame as a solo artist, thanks to vines that are some of the oldest in the south of France. Non-bubble, Limoux Chardonnay is also now well positioned to become a favourite on our shelves. 
 
I had lunch with Laurent Delaunay of Languedoc winemakers Abbots & Delaunay a while ago when he proudly told me that he comes from a Burgundian winemaking family. I should have guessed; Chardonnay is the link to his Burgundian roots. In the Languedoc he’s searched out small, high altitude Limoux plots with the best old knarled vines to produce his Zephyr Chardonnay. The 2012 vintage carries less oak flavors than previous vintages I’m pleased to say, and really hits the spot, “you can feel the Burgundian in there”.
 
So, Snooth readers are ahead of the game. Tell your friends that Limoux’s the new kid on the block. Sparkling or still, made in the traditional way from classic grape varieties, you can pronounce it, it tastes good and importantly in these challenging times, it doesn’t involve a second mortgage.  
 
Looking to buy a Limoux near you? Start here.
 
John Downes, one of only 340 Masters of Wine in the world is a corporate entertainer, speaker, television and radio broadcaster and writer on wine. Check out John’s website at  www.johndownes.com. Follow him on Twitter @JOHNDOWNESMW

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    1986986 14

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