Founded toward the end of the 8th century, the Benedictine Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire still holds a starring role in the wine-making annals and lore of Southwest France. Along with an official document dating to 1531 wherein the abbey’s monks first describe the method of making mousseux (sparkling wine), there’s another intriguing and contentious tale that involves yet another wine-making monk, Dom Pérignon; while en route to the pilgrimage path of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Purportedly, it was during a brief stopover at this abbey in Languedoc when he was introduced to the then-curious and little-known process. In having carefully detailed the original Limoux recipe, he would continue experimenting with it after returning to his home abbey in Reims. Propelled by this work, Dom Pérignon became an iconic, globally known figurehead, and his northern French city would eventually evolve into the unofficial capital of Champagne! Despite all the colourful conjecture, this story is likely a tall tale since any bottle-fermentation in the early 17th century, which produces bubbly gasses, was strictly avoided by vintners as it caused the imperfect glass bottles of the day to explode. A serious problem for longer-term storage of finished wine, the unwanted second fermentation was considered to be sloppy wine-making and derisively referred to as Vin du Diable (‘devil’s wine’). In time, the refinement of higher quality glass and employing the double closure of an enlarged cork secured with wire wraps made the standard vessels stable enough to contain the frothy mousseux. In 1975, ‘Champagne’ became a proprietary and crowning term for their regional style, with all other variants in France and Luxembourg becoming officially referred to as Crémant. i.e. Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Dis, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Savoie, Crémant de Loire, Crémant d’Alsace, and from the region nearby to the Abbey – Crémant de Limoux.
As for this week’s featured region, the vineyards in the foothills of the Pyrénées are planted at relatively higher altitudes, and where the windy intersect of the Vent Cer blowing in from the Atlantic, and the Vent Marin off the Mediterranean make for more balanced conditions than is typical in most of the surrounding Languedoc-Roussillon zones. Coupled with stony, nutrient-poor, clay soils, these factors combine as an ideal environment for cultivating ‘Blanquette’ (Mauzac Blanc); a white wine grape that’s been grown in the Limoux AOP for several centuries now. Somewhat chameleon, this variety develops as either green or pinkish-skinned clusters depending on the influence of each vineyard terroir. The ‘Blanquette’ nickname refers to a benign white powder that coats its leaves in spring, and provides the namesake for the local Crémant styles; the sweet, Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale, and the dry, Blanquette de Limoux Brut.
In the Blanquette de Limoux appellation, wines are required to contain at least 90% Mauzac topped off with a small splash of either Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay grapes, For this DéClassé recommended, Cuvée Jean Philippe Blanquette de Limoux Brut 2014, the vintners of Domaine Rosier are drawing fruit from hillside vineyards that ring around the Romanesque village of Villelongue-d’Aude. Equally charming and inviting, this well-dressed bottling is offered at such an affordable price-point there’s no need to hold off for a special event. So, make many upcoming days memorable by picking up several bottles of this premium, extra dry, vintage sparkler — to add a delightful dose of spritz into your wintertime, white wine mix!
CUVEE JEAN PHILIPPE BLANQUETTE DE LIMOUX BRUT 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #467217 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in Languedoc-Roussillon, France
By: Domaine Rosier
Release Date: January 7, 2017
With a lemon-tinged hue, this very crisp Crémant has bright citrus fruit and green apple notes typical of the Mauzac grape, finishing with subtle hints of the toasty flavour notes that result from its traditional, secondary fermentation method of production. Avoid overchilling to preserve the wine’s more delicate layers and pair with triple crème Brie, warm canapés with Gruyère, savoury pastries, smoked salmon, and freshwater fish dishes with cream sauces.