Nov 30, 2016
Monsieur Mauzac had me meet him in a small café in downtown Limoux. The sun was shining on the beret clad grape who first looked at his watch when I arrived and then gave me a bubbly hello. I was a few moments late. Mauzac had been around for a while, his roots are sunk deep in this region. The Mauzacs had lived at the base of the Pyrenees for centuries.
Mauzac: Monsieur, bienvenue, sit, sit.
UU: Thank you for the interview.
Mauzac: C’est mon plaisir. You have questions, non?
UU: What one myth would you like Americans to quit believing about French wine?
Mauzac: Monsieur, there are many, but perhaps most pernicious is that tale about Dom Perignon and his seeing stars. He saw stars alright, but they were the stars here in Limoux. That whole sparkling wine thing began here. He stole it from us.
UU: Do tell.
Mauzac: Well, to hear the Frères over at St. Hilaire tell it, originally, this whole sparkling thing started when they had finished fermenting some wine right before the Christmas holidays. They stored the wines away par normal. The wine slept over the winter. But, in the spring something had happened. When the wine was opened it was, how do you Americans say, sparklement. The yeast had been left in and had overwintered, and when it awoke it was hungry. The yeast began to feast again on the sugar which was left in the bottle. The yeast got gas, pardonnez ma vulgarité, s'il vous plait, and with nowhere for the fumes to go, it took residence in the liquid. Voila, bubbles!
We Limoux know a miracle when we see it and kept it to ourselves for a century and a half.
Perignon happened through on his way back North from Spain and stayed for a time at the monastery. Benedictines are très hospitable, vraiment. But how did he repay their kindness? By stealing the miracle and taking it to Champagne. Délinquants du Nord!
Mauzac stopped for a moment while he collected himself. He was visibly agitated. I saw a bit of foam collecting at the corner of his mouth. He took a long drag of his Gitanes and calmed.
Mauzac: Pardonnez moi. When I think of this, I tend to become très upset. Perignon took a charmant miracle (c’est c-h-a-r-m-a-n-t, not c-h-a-r-m-a-t, pour le recorde) and made it happen on his own schedule. What God gave us, he made happen with science. Perignon created the bubbles on purpose, where we had originally had just let it happen.
Mais non, we Limoux are adaptable. The older of us, the true Limoux, us Mauzac, still make Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale, we don’t allow other grapes to mix, and we allow nature to take its course all by itself. We make wine; we bottle the wine; we allow the bubbles to form naturally. So what if it’s un peu cloudy, it’s still sweet and délicieux.
We also stole the controlled method back from the Champenois and we call it Blanquette de Limoux. While my grapes, the Mauzacs, must account for 90% of the blend, we do allow some of the Chardonnays and some of the Chenin Blancs access. Also, across town there is another faction turning things on their heads, le Crémant de Limoux, They are mainly Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc who allow 10% of us Mauzac in the mix.
Don’t get us mixed up. The trois of us speak cordialement when see each other in the street. Still, we are the vins mousseux d'origine, before Champagne. Before the time of Dom.
I’d like to give a special tip of the hat to the French Wine Society (FWS), especially Julien Camus, President, FWS and Lisa Airey, Education Director, FWS. Some of the information in this blog comes The French Wine Scholar Study Manual. Continue to http://www.frenchwinesociety.org/ to find out about the benefits of becoming a member.
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