Most of the world credits the invention of sparkling wine to the Champagne region, and to Dom Perignon. The legend, and possible real story, is far more interesting. According to Limoux natives, it was really invented there when Blanquette was created in their backyard. Its existence is documented as far back as the 1500s. When the great dom passed through, he stole the idea, they allege.
No matter who is right, Limoux is a lovely small town with a big heart in the Languedoc. It is home to one of Europe's most popular Carnavals, a divine two-month-long ode to food, music and the French joie de vivre. The enchanting Aude River weaves through the small city.
While Blanquette is the area's claim to not-so-prominent fame, the local vintners produce wonderful chardonnays, syrahs and "Crémant de Limoux," a blend of chardonnay and chenin grapes.
The Blanquette is the real allure, though. I actually prefer it to its more popular Champagne cousin. It has an understated, dry and mellow personality befitting its Southern France setting and, perhaps, the under-rated appreciation. While it is hard to find in U.S. wine shops, I've found an online site where you can buy it now!
It is in the heart of France's Cathar Country, just a few minutes from the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. It is one of the loveliest areas of France for a drive, as you pass vineyards and symetrical rows of trees reaching atop the roads. Stop at wineries for tastings. Indulge in cassoullet, a delicious Languedocian stew of white beans and meat.
Sit in one of the local cafés, sipping a Blanquette, and just let your worries flee from your mind. Hit the Friday market to sample local produce and specialties. Visit the unique Piano Museum, or Musée du Piano. For the outdoorsy types, there are myriad recreational activities to enjoy and the Pyrenees Mountains are nearby.
- If you plan to visit, there are a few lodging options in or near Limoux. For the ultimate in atmosphere, splurge for a room at Hôtel Le Monastère situated (surprise, surprise) in a former medieval monastery.
- The lovely Moderne et Pigeon has a great location and is situated in an 18th-century building.
- Book a rail pass