France's oldest sparkling wine fights for its future

Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:56am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Marcel Michelson

LIMOUX, France (Reuters) - The sparkling wine from the region around this town in southwestern France claims to be the bubbly with the oldest mention in official records.

Limoux barely escaped historical relegation as a local specialty by a flood of Spanish fizz from the other side of the Pyrénées mountains and is now fighting its corner with an offer of quality sparkling wines at affordable prices for its sweet traditional Blanquette de Limoux Methode Ancestrale and dryer Blanquette de Limoux Brut.

"Twenty years ago the quality of Limoux wines in general was not very good," said Richard Planas, the director of the AOC Limoux professional body. "A lot of work has been done and a lot has changed."

Limoux lies to the south of the Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, not far from the Mediterranean and the eastern Pyrénées. The area has plenty of sun and rain while the winds from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean soften the temperature extremes in both summer and winter.

The Roman historian Livy who died in 17 AD mentioned wines from Limoux, but the first mention of a sparkling wine from the area was found in 1531 records kept by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint Hilaire, near the town.

"It is of course difficult to claim being the first, sparkling wine is a natural effect of yeast and it could have been discovered at several places around that time," Planas said.

Other sparkling wines with a long pedigree are the Gaillac bubbly, also from the southwest, and the Clairette de Die from the northeast.

Legend has it that Dom Pérignon travelled during a pilgrimage to the Saint-Hilaire abbey - on the way to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain - and discovered the process of sparkling wines there.   Continued...

A woman tastes red wine in Bordeaux, southwestern France, November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Regis