Limoux wines are produced around the city of Limoux in the Languedoc region of south-western France. They are produced under 4 AOC / AOP designations: Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale, Crémant de Limoux and Limoux. The first three are sparkling wines and dominate production around Limoux. The main grape varietal of the region is Mauzac Blanc, locally known as Blanquette, followed by Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
In 2005, the Limoux AOC was created to include red wines consisting of predominantly Merlot. Wine historians believe the world's first sparkling wine was produced in this region in 1531, by the monks at the Abbey in Saint-Hilaire. The Limoux wine region is located in at the foothills of the Pyrénées in southern France, south of the very impressive fortified city of Carcassonne.
The classified vineyards are in the Aude region, in the general vicinity of Limoux and west of the Corbières hills. The climate is dominated by the strong winds of the region, influenced by both the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The soil in the area is rocky with clay, sandstone and limestone, creating a distinct terroir across the region. Despite being located at a southern latitude, the climate is actually cooler than most of the southern France wine regions.
Records show that trade in non-sparkling wines from Limoux; date back to Roman occupation of the region. ‘Blanquette de Limoux’ is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France, created long before the Champagne region became world renowned. The first textual mention of ‘Blanquette’, comes from the Occitan expression for ‘the small white’, appeared in 1531 in papers written by Benedictine monks at an Abbey in Saint-Hilaire.
In 1938, Blanquette de Limoux became one of the first AOCs established in the Languedoc region. In 1936 AOCs included Muscat de Frontignan in the Languedoc and Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls in the Roussillon wine region. Prior to 1993, the only non-sparkling still wine that Limoux producers made under the AOC designation was Mauzac. Varietal versions of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc were permitted but all white wines were required to contain a minimum of 15% Mauzac. Producers that wished to make a 100% Chardonnay wine, or a wine without Mauzac, have to produce their wines as ‘Vin de Pays d'Oc’.
Limoux was the first AOC to regulate mandatory barrel fermentation for its white wine. In 2003 the appellation was approved for the production of red varietal wines. These red wines must contain a minimum of 50% Merlot with Grenache, Malbec and Syrah. Carignan is permitted at a maximum of 10% of the blend until 2010 when the varietal was phased out completely. All together there must be at least 3 grape varieties in the blend with no two single varietals exceeding 90% of the final blend.
The still white wines of the Limoux AOC vary depending on the primary grape. Mauzac adds a zesty acidity and requires time in the bottle before the more subtle, floral flavours express themselves. Chardonnay dominant wines from the region can be more approachable in their youth and tend to have a rich, full bodied with citrus and integrated oak notes.
When the term Crémant was introduced for non-Champagne sparkling wines in France, an AOC for more modern styles of sparkling wines was created in 1990. Before this time, Limoux producers were split on what direction to go, so the provisional appellation of ‘Crémant de Limoux’ was introduced to allow the producers to make whichever style of sparkling wine they preferred and still sell it under an AOC designation.
'Crémant de Limoux' sparkling wines differ from 'Blanquette de Limoux' in their grape mix; with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc being the predominant varietals. Together they can not exceed 90% of the wines. For Chenin Blanc, a minimum of 20% and a maximum of 40% must be used. Mauzac and Pinot Noir are accessory grape varietals and can't exceed 20% together with Pinot Noir itself not exceeding 10%. Thus, Crémant de Limoux contains 40-70% Chardonnay, 20-40% Chenin Blanc, 10-20% Mauzac and 0-10% Pinot Noir. AOP regulations state that the wine must be aged for a least one year on its lees prior to disgorgement. There are now over 40 villages around the city of Limoux recognised to make Crémant de Limoux.