WINE OF THE WEEK.
BLANQUETTE DE LIMOUX. Brut Nature. Antech. (£9.95 at The Wine Society).
Regular readers will know that I often pooh-pooh rigid food and wine matches and this week is no exception as I was presented with an attractive plate of mini fruit trifles. Instead of the usual sweet wine I’ve plumped for a dry sparkler. It works, not perfectly but, it works. Let me know what you think on Twitter @JOHNDOWNESMW.
Champagne would be an interesting match but we’re in Limoux in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the south of France for this bubbly.
Set between the steep slopes of the Pyrenees, the foothills of the Cevennes, the Mediterranean coast and the mighty River Rhone, the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon benefit from a diversity of soil types, climates and altitudes. The Limoux vineyards set around the town of Limoux, (surprise, surprise) are not a million miles from the must-see town of Carcassonne. The vineyards are in the Pyrenean foothills and are higher and cooler than those of any other Languedoc-Roussillon appellation. This leads to a style of wine that’s quite distinct, one that’s light in both colour and weight in the mouth, ‘just right for sparkling wine.
By law, Blanquette de Limoux can be made from three grapes: Mauzac, the local variety which must constitute at least 90% of the wine, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Blanquette is the local name for Mauzac, meaning “little white one”, a reference to the underside of the leaves getting a white downy underside and not, I’m told, to the size of the grape itself.
The grape varieties are vinified separately before blending and bottling. Similar to Champagne, a little sugar and a touch of yeast is added to produce a second fermentation in the bottle; the result is a little more alcohol and carbon dioxide gas which, not being able to escape the capped bottle is married within the wine. Hey Presto we have a sparkling wine that, if it’s made in the Limoux region from authorised grapes, can carry the name ‘Blanquette de Limoux’.
The Antech Blanquette de Limoux has no added sweetness and so is ‘brut nature’. ‘Ultra brut’ and ‘brut zero’ are other names for no sugar sparklers. The dry, sharp, fresh, edgey apple flavours with their typically rustic tones may be a bit of a shock for your taste buds but that’s the bit I liked about its partnership with the tangy cranberry and orange trifles.
You’ll also see Cremant de Limoux on our shelves, a bubbly that was introduced in 1990 primarily to allow producers to introduce more Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc into the blend to create more internationally recognised flavours. The law says that Cremant de Limoux must be made from up to 90 per cent Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc with Pinot Noir (a red grape don’t forget) and/or Mauzac making up the balance. Cremant de Limoux can therefore be white or rose.
Waitrose’s Cremant de Limoux Cuvée Royale Brut NV., (£11.49), for example, is made from Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (20%) and Pinot Noir (10%). It’s not ‘brut nature’ but it’s crisp, apple citrus flavours also get a smile from the mini fruit trifles.