If you’ve explored the southern French wine section of the store, you know that the shelves are rife with big, powerful red wines, and usually at stellar prices. The Languedoc/Roussillon regions have given wine lovers some of the best values in recent years, ranging from earthy and complex to polished and fruit-driven. But perhaps a region you might be less familiar with within the Languedoc is the small appellation of Limoux, nestled in a valley that gazes up to the Pyrenees Mountains.
Limoux is well known not for its red wines, but for its sparkling wines. Although the days are sunny and hot, the region gets a cooling influence from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and cool breezes rush down the mountains as well. This creates an environment that Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan (some of the well-known red grapes of the Languedoc) struggle to ripen in, but that crisp, high-acid white grapes thrive in—perfect for sparkling wines. In fact, early records show that the first-ever sparkling wine was made not in Champagne, but in Limoux! Benedictine monks from the Saint Hilaire Abbey noted their white wines going through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and thus was born what we now know as Blanquette de Limoux.
Winemakers and wine lovers around the world have been fascinated by this curious little outpost in the south of France for centuries, and Michel Perrin from Champagne was no exception. In the 1980s Perrin purchased 30 hectares of land in Limoux and founded Domaine J Laurens. Today, local winemaker Jacques Calvel owns it and has become renowned worldwide for his high-quality, Champagne-like sparkling wines. Among others, he employs the beloved local Mauzac grape, well-known for its pointed acidity and green apple skin notes—resulting in a crisper, cleaner, “zingier” style of sparkling wine than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are capable of in Champagne. (And did we mention that Limoux sparklers are a fraction of the price of a bottle of Champagne?)
Sparkling wine sales are growing in leaps and bounds (could it be the next rose boom?) and for good reason. While they’re great as reception wines, aperitifs and for celebratory occasions, more and more people are catching onto how versatile sparkling wines are for food pairing. If you’ve never tried bubbles and French fries, fried chicken or potato chips, you’re missing out on some matches made in heaven! Sparkling wines cut through the creaminess of brie cheeses, cleanse the palate while slurping down oysters and mussels, and pair with all things brunch-related.
We invite you to come meet Jacques Calvel himself this Friday on our wine tasting bar, pouring his three sparkling wines from Limoux! There’s no better way to learn about wine than from the winemaker himself, and to hear what makes these wines and this region so special. Cheers!