Any readers of this blog or Twitter followers know my weakness is Champagne and well made sparkling wines. Luckily, the Languedoc region helps scratch that itch with a selection of well-made, reasonably priced offerings.
There’s some debate about the origins of the traditional method of sparkling wine production. Some say it originated here in the Limoux appellation of Languedoc as far back as 1531, where records suggest wines went through secondary fermentation in the bottle long before they did in Champagne.
The Limoux wine region is located in the eastern foothills of the Pyrénées near the town of Limoux. Two things exist here that are essential for making good sparkling wines — chalky limestone (and clay) soils, as well as colder temperatures. Because of the Mediterranean and Atlantic influences and higher elevations, Limoux is much cooler than the rest of Languedoc. That allows for ideal, slow ripening conditions for the white grapes that go into the wines. [/half]
Two sparkling wines to look for from Limoux are Blanquette de Limoux or Crémant de Limoux, both offer quality for not very much money.
Blanquette de Limoux wines are made in the traditional method (methode champenoise) using Mauzac grapes primarily. Local AOC laws allow for the addition of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay so winemakers can make a more modern style.
Crémant de Limoux are also made in the traditional method with a greater percentage of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
A third style of wine produced under the Blanquette de Limoux Methode Ancestrale appellation keeps ancient wine making traditions alive in sweeter, low alcohol sparkling wines that have a cloudy appearance from the wine resting on the lees even after secondary fermentation.
Some of the gems I’ve come across lately represent the bang for the buck this region is known for:
Saint Hilaire Blanc de Blancs Brut AOC Blanquette de Limoux - $12
The history books suggest Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire created the first sparkling wine, almost a century before Champagne. Today, almost 450 years later Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux is made in the same area at the foothills of Limoux.
This Blancs de Blanc is made from the Mauzac grape, which are generally known as Blanquette. AOC laws allow for a small percentage of Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.
This is a great everyday value in sparkling wine, with a fine texture wrapped around bright, crisp granny smith green apple notes and a little lemon custard.
Delmas AOC Blanquette de Limoux - $13
Lovers of sparkling wine with baked biscuit and yeasty characters will like the Delmas. Mauzac and Chardonnay come together to display freshness over a creamy texture with subtle toastiness and green apple peel.
The grapes that go into Bernard Delmas' wines are certified organic and Vegan approved. They have also achieved ECOCERT status, the standard of sustainable farming practices in France. As if you needed more of an excuse to pop a bottle open!
Antech “Cuvee Eugenie” AOC Crémant de Limoux - $12
It's good to know there are things you can count on in this world. One of them is perennial QPR favoriate, Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" named after Eugenie Limouzy, the grande dame of the estate.
La Maison Antech makes their Crémant de Limoux with 50% Chardonnay, 40% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac using the traditional method (methode champenoise) allowing the bottles to rest 12 months on lees before disgorgement.