Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sparkling wines of the Limoux AOC (Aube, Languedoc)

Sparkling wine production in France can be placed into four broad categories:
  1. Champagne -- King of the hill. Reserved for sparkling wines produced within the delimited area of the Champagne wine region.
  2. Crémant -- sparkling wine made using the méthode traditionelle. Wines in this category include Crémant de Loire, Crémant d'Alsace,  Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Die, and the newly minted Crémant de Savoie. These wines have to adhere to the following restrictions:
    1. Harvested by hand within set production quotas
    2. Whole-bunch pressed
    3. Sulfur dioxide use limited
    4. > 9 months on lees
    5. About half the carbon of Champagne
    6. Submitted to a QC tasting panel for approval
  3. Méthode Ancestrale -- wines are generally bottled with residual sugar. Effervescence gained via refermentation (or continued fermentation) in the bottle.
  4. All others -- sparkling wines made in any of the available sparkling wine production methods to the exclusion of the Méthode Ancestrale.
Limoux AOC has the distinction of being one of only two AOCs (the others is Die) to produce a sparkling wine in each of the available categories (keeping in mind that Champagne production is impossible for producers outside of the region). Limoux AOC sparkling wine production encompasses Crémant de Limoux, Blanquette de Limoux, and Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale (The term Blanquette stems from the Mauzac variety developing a white down on its leaves.). I have written previously of the terroir of the region and will discuss the wines in the remainder of this post.

Crémant de Limoux gained its AOC status in in 1990. The primary grapes are Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc which, together, should not exceed 90% of the blend. Chardonnay must be a minimum 40% of the blend while Chenin Blanc can range between 20% and 40%. The secondary grapes in the blend are Mauzac Blanc and Pinot Noir with the latter limited to a max of 20%. A total of 620 ha is devoted to the production of grapes for this wine. Crémant de Limoux offers up aromas of white flowers, citrus, and toast. This wine spends 12 months on the lees plus three months post-disgorgement in bottle prior to sale. Alcohol level post-dosage is at 13%. Annual production is 24,745 hl.

Blanquette de Limoux is produced from Mauzac (90%), Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay varieties planted over an 1100-ha area on the tops of south-facing slopes. These wines are produced using the Champagne method and spend 9 months on lees and three months in bottle post-disgorgement. The 48,000 hl of wine produced attain alcohol levels of 13%. The wines are produced in Brut, demi-sec, doux, and sweet styles. Aromas are evocative of fruits, spring flowers, apple, and honey.

Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wine -- awarded AOC status in 1938 -- is produced from 100% Mauzac grapes whose partially fermented juice is bottled on a full moon in March. Fermentation concludes in the bottle, producing a wine that is higher in residual sugar, lower in alcohol, and less effervescent than its compatriots. Alcohol levels for this wine is around 7%. Aroma and flavors include apricot, acacia, hawthorne, peach, and apple. Production levels are 4000 hl annually.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. Great post Keith! Had no idea and this was nicely laid out and easy to understand! salut and love to Parlo

    1. Thank you. And I will pass on your regards.

  2. Thank you for giving us your knowledge on french sparkling wines. I was quite impressed. Do you know is to what the true benefit is in adding SO2 to champagne? How much is added and is there a control group study on this?
    Keep up the great work. We all appreciate it.

    1. Well I must admit, I did not expect to get a champagne question coming out of this post. As you know, sulfur dioxide is used in winemaking as both an antioxidant and an antimicrobial agent. In the case of Champagne, sulfur dioxide is added to the juice coming out of the press at the rate of 40 - 60 mg/l (Jackson, Wine Science). At dosage a small quantity of sulfur dioxide may be added to guard against refermentation and to limit oxidation.
      I am not aware of a control group study on this.
      And thanks for the kind words.