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03 April 2010

Languedoc: Château Rives-Blanques, Limoux

Château Rives-Blanques

Jan and Caryl Panman own the neighbouring vineyard to Domaine Bégude (both of them lie above the village of Cépie: follow the signs past and keep going up the lane for five minutes), which they bought over 10 years ago from Eric Vialade, who still works here overseeing vineyards and cellar. The hospitable enthusiastic Panmans only make white and sparkling wines - although their new vintage Crémant de Limoux rosé has a dash of Pinot Noir in it sourced from elsewhere - which they’ll be happy to taste with you after showing you around some of their picturesque vines. These lie on a plateau, although slightly above Bégude, and are farmed in the "most environmentally friendly way" they can, with a couple of plots of old-vine Mauzac undergoing an organic trial (the whole vineyard used to be, but the previous owner was plagued by a certain disease in the mid-90s and was forced to treat with systemic sprays). Talking of Mauzac, Caryl and Jan are vociferous champions of this local variety, which, apart from being used for their sparkling wines, has been transformed into an unusual barrel-aged dried white called Occitania. Others worth trying include their fine Odyssée Limoux Chardonnay, a complex dry Chenin Blanc called Dédicace, La Trilogie (a barrel-selection blend of all three grapes not necessarily made every year) and occasionally a luscious late-harvest passerillé Chenin-Mauzac name after their daughter Xaxa. 

I tried these in situ in April 2010 (read on for 2011 & 2012 updates):
Blanquette de Limoux (90% Mauzac 10% Chenin Blanc, 12.5% alc, 3.5g/l residual sugar) - lightly yeasty and appley on the nose; crisp and refreshing, pretty dry and lively finish, nice clean elegant style. 85+
2007 Crémant de Limoux rosé (ChardonnayChenin BlancPinot Noir) - gentle red fruits with appley vs lightly bready notes; tight fine and crisp mouth-feel, again refreshingly dry vs fuller oilier finish. 87+
2009 Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc vin de pays d'Oc - attractive zesty style vs lightly exotic peachy fruit; turns more citrus zingy and crisp vs a hint of yeast-lees creaminess. 85+
2008 Cuvée Occitania Limoux (100% Mauzac from plots undergoing organic conversion) - a touch of coconut oak and lees on the nose, turning oilier vs wild floral and honeyed aromas/flavours plus fennel and aniseed tones too; rounded with underlying spicy coconut notes vs oily / mineral texture, quite well-handled oak giving something a bit different too. 87
2008 Dédicace Chenin Blanc (13%) - juicy melon fruit vs rounder oily creamy texture; quite elegant and steely finish, closes up on itself although it's promising...
2007 Dédicace Chenin Blanc (13%) - maturing oily notes with coconut edges; attractive ripe melon fruit vs mineral bite, hints of oak spice on its creamy vs fairly steely finish. 87+
2006 Dédicace Chenin Blanc (13%) - more developed oily nose (almost old Riesling-like "petrol"), oxidising and complex; nice rounded towards buttery palate vs greener edges, enticing lingering flavours. 89(+)
2008 Odyssée Limoux (Chardonnay 13.5%) - aromatic citrus notes with underlining buttery, oily and lightly toasty profile; good balance of juicy leesy mouth-feel vs weight and subtle oak spice vs crisp and long. 88-90
2008 Trilogie Limoux (mostly Chenin Blanc ChardonnayMauzac) - a tad exotic and peachy vs nutty and coconut; quite refined and steely vs fatter more powerful side, oily "sweet" texture vs greener fruit and zesty lees; again subtle oak handling, promising. 89-91
2008 Sauvageon (Sauvignon Blanc, 35% new oak) - toasty edges with green pepper and kiwi fruit tones; fatter mouth-feel with oily coconut and slight punch vs crisp and interesting finish. Not everyone's cup of tea though. 85+
2004 Xaxa (late-harvest passerillé 60% Chenin 40% Mauzac, 14% alc & 90g/l RS) - complex nose/palate with marmalade and toasted honey vs orange/lemon peel; has refreshing "cut" and a bit of weight vs that sweetness, lovely balance and style in fact. 90+

Quite a few independent merchants in the US and UK list these wines, including James Nicholson in Northern Ireland.

UPDATES: latest R-B here (Limoux report April 2011)...
And here (Limoux fizz May 2012).

11300 Cépie. Tel: 04 68 31 43 20, www.rives-blanques.com.

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