The last time I was in Limoux with the family, Chéri and I wanted to taste some ‘Blanquette de Limoux’. However, as a wine amateur, I had no clue where to go. After asking for some tips from people who know about wine, I decided to write a post about a couple of wine estates where you can’t go wrong. I hope it is as helpful to you as it was to me.
Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire
Let’s start where it all began. Set among the rolling vineyards between Carcassonne and Limoux lies the Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire. This monastery, as it appears today, originated in the 14th century. The legend goes that in the spring of 1531, the monks created a sparkling wine by accident or happy chance. However, this wine, called blanquette, delighted the Lord of Arques, the Duke of Joyeuse, and in the end, the whole of France. Keep in mind that all of this happened well before Dom Pérignon developed his method of making sparkling wines, better known as champagne… Although you can’t buy wine at the abbey, I think it’s a good starting point to understand where blanquette comes from.
Jan and Caryl Panman are the driving force behind Château Rives-Blanques in Cépie, just outside of Limoux. Over 20 years, they made their dream of making great white wines come true. Now, they are passing on their knowledge to the next generation. Their 30 ha of vines and woodlands are situated at about 400 meters altitude in a Pyrenees-protected nature reserve. The good soil and favourable weather conditions are perfect for growing three grape varieties: Mauzac, Chenin and Chardonnay. With these- handpicked- grapes, Château Rives-Blanques doesn’t make just any wine, either blanquette, crémant or non-sparkling. According to the many awards and high praises, the Pasman family makes among the best white wines around! If you contact them beforehand, you are most welcome to attend a wine tasting. Or you can join them on their regular Tuesday morning tour.
Domaine J. Laurens
Another highly valued wine estate is Domaine J. Laurens at La Digne d’Aval. It was created in the 1980s by a man from the Champagne region, Michel Dervin. In 2002, native-born Jacques Calvel took over, looking for a new challenge and to go back to his roots. At Domaine J. Laurens, modern techniques combine with traditional methods. All their wines- from blanquette to crémant- are only created with handpicked grapes. This is one of the requirements of the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) Limoux and goes for all of the Domaine J. Laurens’ 40 ha of vineyards. You can visit the wine estate for a tasting from Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 12h00 and from 13h30 to 18h00.
Seeing the light at the end of the 19th century, Maison Antech has produced wine for six generations. For four generations, the wine estate was in the hands of fierce women. Since 1996, the fifth woman in line, Françoise Antech Gazeau, has been in charge of the family Domaine. They make a beautiful range of blanquette, crémant and wines using various production methods. These include the traditional way, with the second fermentation in the bottle. And the ancestral one, when the fermentation is stopped before starting up in the bottle again. In 2013, Antech received the sustainable Terra Vitis certification. Besides rave reviews and many awards, international star chefs serve some of Antech’s excellent wines. They are open for a ‘dégustation’ from Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 12h00 and from 14h00 to 18h00.
This wine estate offers a complete immersion with a sound and light show explaining Maison Guinot’s history. In one hour and for 6.50 euros (per adult), you will get to know more about the six generations of winemakers. Maison Guinot claims to be the oldest blanquette and crémant producer in Limoux, in business since 1875. The interactive visit leads you through the 140-year-old cellar and explains the traditional method of making the sparkling wine. It is one of the few estates that still turns 30,000 bottles manually for 30 days to collect the deposit in the neck of the bottle. At the end of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to taste some of Maison Guinot’s blanquettes and crémants. You can go on this guided visit year-round from Monday to Friday at 10h30, 14h30 and 16h00. I’d suggest booking your tickets in advance on the website.