A glass of Vintage Champagne – delicious, indeed; but not exactly every day drinking for us mere mortals. So what else is out there when you don’t want to settle for ‘more affordable’, but often mass produced acidic Champagne from the Supermarket?

On a misty April morning this year the JN Taste Team descended upon Château Rives-Blanques. Unfortunately due to misty weather, the view was not at its best but we perked up when the tasting got underway. Owned and run by Jan and Carol Panman the 30ha of vineyards sit on a plateau at an altitude of 350m above sea level, nestled against a stunning backdrop to the Pyrenees Mountains. The altitude and Atlantic influence are the reason Limoux is the diamond in the Languedoc-Roussillon. White wine rules here. The lower temperatures allow longer ripening periods thus more time for complex aromas to develop. Note that it snowed two days after we left!

 

 

 Château Rives-Blanques

 The origin of Champagne?

Limoux is famous for its Sparkling wine, known officially as ‘Blanquette de Limoux’. To qualify for this classification they must abide by strict AOC rules; it must be made exclusively from hand harvested mauzac grapes, a rare grape variety that dates back to the Renaissance and has been growing in Limoux for over six hundred years. The wine must also undergo a second fermentation in bottle. Ah, you may say – just like Champagne. BUT at Château Rives Blanques, they lay claim to discovering the world's first and original brut sparkling wine by happy accident - or by divine intervention - at a Benedictine monastery in Limoux in 1531, over a century before Dom Pérignon reputedly pinched the idea and headed northwards, establishing the method in Champagne.
It shot to fame earlier this year, after receiving high praise on the renowned critic Jancis Robinsons’ website.

"Smells like spring. White blossom and crisp apple. Delicate, fine and so delightful. Cotton. Cool as a sunlit breeze. Utterly refreshing. 16.5/20 (TC)". (Tamlyn Currin, Jancis Robinson Purple Pages, 25 May 2010).

Their Blanquette de Limoux kicked off our tasting, followed by a refreshing Crement de Limoux Rosé (think strawberries, rasberries with refreshing acidity – another perfect summer sparkling wine), then a Chenin Chardonnay dubbed by the Panman’s ‘their basic beauty’. This Vin de Pays d’Oc has notched up countless awards against its name. Next the ‘Dedicace’ Chenin Blanc 2006 showed beautifully; it has completely developed since we tasted it for the first time last year (knocks the socks off any Vouvray I’ve tried, so complex and interesting, the nose exudes apricots and ripe peaches, but the palate delivers a dry, mineral driven character, rounded off by a creamy texture created by time spent on the lees in oak). The ‘L’Odyssee’ Chardonnay 2008 stood out as a show stopper. It featured on the JN Top 12 list as a result, and has since sold out. We are thus expecting a new shipment to arrive soon. To finish off the morning’s work, we tasted ‘Xa Xa’, a late harvest Chenin Blanc; terrific sweet wine; great with rich fruit based pastries or pies.

Château Rives Blanques was certainly a highlight of our trip across the Languedoc, and their wines stand testament to the hard work of the Panman family.

 

 

 

Averil & Lucy
with JanPanman
Château Rives-Blanques