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09 April 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de Fourn / Robert, Limoux

UPDATED 2012 - see link at bottom.

This 40-hectare estate, owned by the Robert family and set adrift in the hills not far from the village of Pieusse, is efficiently signposted; otherwise you really would be on a "magical mystery tour" to find it (maybe that's the idea, hush hush and all that). Ardent defenders of the region's distinctive fizz, like Domaine Martinolles below, this is a good place to see how sparkling Limoux is made in the different styles; particularly as the Roberts still use traditional racks to slowly invert the bottles to remove the sediment. This process is mostly automated nowadays, as it is in Champagne and understandably as it's very labour-intensive, where the wines are stored in 'giro-palettes' which jolt every now and then while gradually tilting the bottles. Blanquette is made mainly from the Mauzac variety (90+%) with some Chardonnay and Chenin blanc, depending on producer preference, and can be Brut (quite dry with about 8-10 grams per litre residual sugar (RS) v towards high acidity) or Demi-Sec (actually quite sweet). Crémant is always dry (similar Brut spec. to above) and often based on Chardy and Chenin with some Pinot Noir. Both styles undergo second fermentation in bottle and must be aged on the fine yeast-lees for at least nine months before being disgorged: the best, and certainly the most interesting wines are aged for much longer. The Méthode Ancestrale style is a bit of a local curiosity ("for local people" perhaps) and can be quite attractive: 100% Mauzac, sweet (50+ g/l RS) and refreshingly light in alcohol (around 7%) making them nice with fruit desserts, for example.

I tasted these Robert wines in situ in April 2008:
2004 Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Noire (90% Mauzac + Chardy Chenin,12% alc.) - quite fine and appley with light biscuity development and ageing character; crisp elegant and quite dry v subtle chocolate flavours too. 85-87
2001 Crémant de Limoux Brut (60% Mauzac + Chardy Chenin, 12.5%) - richer nuttier aromas, more cakey flavours v quite dry & elegant acidity; nice length and style showing age v finesse. 89
2004 Crémant de Limoux Brut (50% Chardy 30% Chenin Pinot Mauzac, 12%) - tighter and fresher with delicate toasted biscuit flavours, again attractively fine & crisp length. 88-90
2006 Blanquette Ancestrale Doux (100% Mauzac, 7%) - pleasant, buoyant and sweet balanced by nice acidity; try with light desserts. 85

LATEST VINTAGES REVIEWED HERE (Sparkling Limoux report May 2012).

11300 Pieusse. Tel: 04 68 31 15 03, www.robert-blanquette.com.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.