My most memorable tasting event so far in and around Limoux has to be my recent visit to meet Jan and Caryl Panman of Chateau Rives-Blanques. We took a walk in the vineyards, most of which lie on a plateau at about 350 metres above sea level, an altitude that no doubt helps to explain why the wines of this estate maintain their freshness and acidity despite the sometimes pervasive heat. Indeed, the Panmans and their team find they harvest their fruit two weeks after their peers on the slopes and valley floor closer to the town of Limoux itself.
Having driven and then walked to the edge of their plateau vineyard, we could look down onto the valley, where the Panmans have just 2 hectares of vines, all Mauzac, cared for using biological methods (they are in the process of Bio certification), whereas the plateau vines – a mix of Mauzac, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc (the three Limoux varieties for white wine) as well as Sauvignon Blanc – are subject to agriculture raisonnée. In the distance, beyond Limoux, are the grey silhouettes of the Pyrenees. It is a wonderful location.
Back at the domaine we tasted through the Rives-Blanques range, together with manager Eric Vialade, who has been working on the estate for about 30 years. Having been impressed by the 2004 Dédicace on previous tasting – a wine I described as the finest Chenin from outside the Loire – it was reassurring to taste similar quality in the 2006. The 2007 was more youthful and not yet showing the same Chenin character, but it will come. Also impressive were the 2008 La Trilogie (only in bottle two weeks), a blend of the best barrels of all three Limoux varieties (all Limoux has to be fermented and matured in wood, and the Panmans achieve this using 225-litre barriques) and also the 2008 Sauvageon, a fairly new project which is 100% barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc.
I will add a full report to Winedoctor, with an updated Rives-Blanques profile, after my trip.