Saturday, October 8, 2022

Grape Spotlight: AOP Limoux Blanquette de Limoux Mauzac Blanc

Blanquette de Limoux is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France and it was created long before the Champagne region became world-renowned. Although the vineyards date back to the 5th Century BC, introduced by the Greeks, this particular wine was discovered in 1531. A hundred years before Dom Perignon, some Benedictine Monks were fermenting a white wine at the Abbey in Saint-Hilaire.  It was produced in cork-stoppered flasks (the cork oak forest south of Limoux was an important factor). To this day an age-old tradition is followed to bottle at the time of the full moon in March ready for the warmer weather to start the secondary fermentation that produces les bulles (the bubbles) and the fabulous sparkle within the bottles. -- The Good Life France

This fact was highlighted during a recent seminar I attended titled Languedoc: The New French Wine Scene and presented by Vins du Languedoc. This region is located in southeast France on the Mediterranean and is comprised of 20 AOPs representing 90k+ acres of vines. AOP Limoux is a sub-regional appellation located close to the Pyrenean foothills and includes three sparkling wine AOPs: Crémant de Limoux, Limoux Blanquette de Limoux, and Limoux Méthode AncestraleMauzac Blanc is the dominant grape with each region allowing different percentages. Limoux Blanquette de Limoux and Limoux Méthode Ancestrale both obtain secondary fermentation in the bottle with Limoux Blanquette de Limoux using dosage and Limoux Méthode Ancestrale being bottled when the must reaches 5-6% abv.  

The AOP Limoux and three sparkling AOPs share similar growing conditions affected by the two main geographic influences: the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. These are a cool, moist climate affected by the crisp and dry Atlantic wind from the west and the warm Mediterranean wind from the east.  In addition, the region's vineyards are higher and thus cooler than others in the general Languedoc appellation. The soils are rocky, mostly sandstone and limestone, providing excellent drainage. 

The Limoux Blanquette de Limoux AOP requires 90% Mauzac Blanc (plus no more than 10% Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc) with "Blanquette" representing the grape's local name. Mauzac prefers the region's limestone soils and cooler temps as it is a late-ripening variety and requires slow ripening.  The grape's dominant profile is honey and green apples. 

The most popular Limoux Blanquette de Limoux sparkling wine in the U.S. is most likely the Saint Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux with its recognizable yellow-orange label and honors the Benedictine Monks from the Abbey in Saint-Hilaire.  The 2019 vintage is composed of 95% Mauzac and 5% Chenin Blanc and is extremely clean with a dry and crisp green apple profile. Love the yeasty aromas and the creamy texture that proceeds the effervescence. 

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