We need bubbly.
But we tire of bargain Prosecco. Champagne costs too much to share. American bubbly is either too cheap, or too expensive. Cava can work, but can ranges from tart to feet.
The Pyrenees Mountains cut France and Spain apart. Their foothills form Limoux: a region just south of the medieval fortress town of Caracassonne. Inland and high up, both Mediterranean warmth and Atlantic cold make Limoux the coolest region this far south in France. Its soil is equally rough: full of rocky, sandstone, limestone, and clay.
Cold temperatures, challenging soil, high elevations: the perfect recipe for quality bubbly.
Limoux claims to have invented sparkling wine in 1531 by monks at St-Hilaire abbey. They grew local cork. They had flasks. So they chose the Mauzac grape.
It ripened so late that winter’s chill slowed fermentation enough to retain CO2. It also retained rapier edged acids: perfect for aging.
Tonight we crack a Blanquette de Limoux.
This AOC was the Languedoc‘s second appellation in 1938. After various tweeks, it now requires 90% Mauzac. DO NOT confuse Crémant de Limoux for Blanquette. They may both be bubbly and from Limoux, but they part ways from there. Crémant clings to modernity: lush Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc dominate blends. But Blanquette keeps rare, willy Mauzac in production.
This holiday season hunt out Eurl Delmas’ textbook Blanquette de Limoux: perfect to impress your party.
Delmas, Cuvée Berlène, Brut, Blanquette de Limoux, France, 2010
A pale color of off-white silk glows with gold. Casual, I’m-too-pretty-to-be-rushed bubbles drift up the wine’s core.
A noted nose emits crisp buttery short bread, limeade, white fig, and pine.
The dry palate allows lime peel acids to make our mouths water. A mild 12% alcohol sneeks up on us. The body feels athletic and lean: textured like coconut water.
Freshly squeezed lime cracks loudly. A bit of kiwi, light honey, coconut water, and crunchy salt follow it. Our palates beg for appetizers. The tartest of all margaritas comes to mind. But something more elegant and assured than that emerges:
Lovely, seemingly frivolous, eternally young, yet sharply defined: Delmas’ Blanquette is Mucha’s art nouveau. His women may be objectified, muse-metaphors. Yet their eyes always snap back any objectifying gaze, cutting to and through viewers, challenging them like the femme-fatales of French New Wave film.
That acidic gaze will keep attentions upright, while slicing through any appetizers that come its way. We imagine Boucheron goat cheese on water crackers bowing before this sharp wine.
Delmas’s 2010 Brut Blanquette de Limoux is very good (4 0f 5). Luckily, because Limoux isn’t Champagne, this will cost around $15.
Bring it to your last-minute holiday party. If you have a few left over, it will brighten your New Year’s better than most bubblies.
- Perfect Party Wine: Sparkling Wine Under $20 (drinks.seriouseats.com)
- Everyone loves a bit of bubbly! (natalieearl.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 Affordable Holiday Champagnes (friendseat.com)
- Day 62 a drive to the Pyrenees – Limoux, France (travelpod.com)
- Limoux, Bagues (havilbeanacre.wordpress.com)
- Bubbly alternatives beyond Champagne (denverpost.com)
- The best wines for Christmas 2013 (telegraph.co.uk)
- Limoux – Limoux, France (travelpod.com)
- Food | The Cellar: Cooling Off With Sparkling Wines (golocalprov.com)
- A French “Value Sparkler” with No Compromises, le Moulin Blanquette de Limoux (bostonzest.com)