Mauzac or Mauzac Blanc is a traditional white grape varietal found throughout the South West wine areas of France, but almost non-existent elsewhere. This grape varietal seems to have originated from the Tarn Valley in south-western France, between Toulouse and Albi. Taking its name from a village that is located near Toulouse.
Today Mauzac Blanc is mainly grown in the Toulouse wine area, namely in Limoux and Gaillac. Total vine area has decreased slowly since the 1960s, falling from 9167 hectares in 1968, down to 2600 hectares in 2006 and at last count 1991 hectares in 2010.
Mauzac has been declining for a number of years, but is still an important white varietal, especially in Gaillac and Limoux, where it is the traditional and still principal grape varietal.
It produces relatively aromatic wines which are usually blended, with Len de l’El and Muscadelle around Gaillac and with Chenin and Chardonnay in Limoux. In Limoux, Mauzac is a compulsory part of the Blanquette de Limoux - being a minimum of 90% of the blend, where it may be blended with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. However, in Limoux, plantations of Mauzac are losing ground to Chardonnay. The grape is also one of the seven permitted white grape varietals in Bordeaux wine.
Mauzac prefers essentially limestone soils, not growing well in very dry, thin soils, making it well suited to calcareous marls or even clay-limestone soils. Mauzac is resistant to rot and ripens late and may be found in sparkling wines (Méthode Rurale or Gaillacoise) which has been produced long before champagne was even a thought, made dry (en vert), to semi sweet and even vin jaune. Mauzac has a subtle but distinctive flavour; it is gently perfumed with an aroma of apples, pears and yellow plums and an underlying mineral note.
The sparkling wines made from Mauzac are growing in recognition around the world. Historically grapes were hand-picked picked well into autumn so that the ‘must’ fermented slowly and gently in the cool Limoux winters, ready to referment in bottle in the spring. Today Mauzac tends to be picked much earlier, preserving its naturally high acidity but limiting much of its particular flavour reminiscent of the skin of a sweet shrivelled apple, before undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Mauzac when dry (sec tendre to be precise) can produce a fascinating soft style showing pears and white floral notes. Also responsible for sparkling wines and an array of specialty wines ranging from the off dry (Roux) to the unique piercingly dry sherry-like Vin de Voile. This unique wine is made from the first pressing, fermented in old oak and returned to the same barrel where it remains for a further 7 years, losing about 20% volume. After a year the ‘must’ develops a thin veil (voile) of mould which protects it from oxygen (like flor in sherry). The flavour is delicate, like that of a dry Amontillado, with the ability to age 40-50 years.
Sparkling wine like Mauzac Rose the fermentation process used can be Méthode Gaillacoise (also known as Méthode Rurale). This technique involves a single fermentation, without any additional sugar being added. The fermentation is stopped by a series of rackings and the wine is bottled before all of the sugar is converted into alcohol. The residual sweetness, therefore, comes entirely from the grapes. After several months, the residual natural sugar starts to re-ferment and this produces the bubbles, and made in a brut or demi-sec style.
This process requires great skill to achieve and is more difficult than Méthode Champenoise, which can involve the addition of sugar to produce the bubbles. The wine is kept on lees and is not filtered. This delicious sparkling has a fine effervescence, an attractive nose of white acacia flowers, with crisp pear and apples characters on the palate and finish. The Mauzac Roux is responsible for two styles, a Chenin-esque moelleux-style and Mauzac Noir. The drier versions of Mauzac are normally enjoyed with river fish such as trout, the sweeter ones pair well with Roquefort. Vin de Voile pairs well with dried fruits, cheese and walnuts.