Three years ago I spent a few weeks very close to Limoux, and developed a real soft spot for the wines. I’m not sure if it is the idiosyncrasy of the appellation, which is best known for its white and sparkling wines, not a common finding in the Languedoc (apart from Picpoul de Pinet, are there any others?), which creates the appeal, or whether it is the underdog status of Mauzac, one of the principal varieties. Or perhaps it is the fact that Chenin Blanc has a strong role here, perhaps the only French appellation outside the Loire where that is the case? Or perhaps it is just the sheer quality of the wines; for sparkling wines I enjoyed those from Antech most of all, but for still wines Château Rives-Blanques would have to be pretty high up the list.
Here are notes on four recently tasted wines from this estate:
Château Rives-Blanques Limoux Dédicace 2006: It is a couple of years since I tasted this last, when it showed classic honey and straw Chenin Blanc aromas. It has certainly changed since then; the colour in the glass has a deep and golden hue. The nose is less expressive than previously, showing some withdrawn fruit, spiced wood, with a touch of orange fruit. The palate is robust, with early evolving Chenin Blanc character, dense but with a great richness, with nuances of toffee in the supple background. The palate takes on a firm, rounded and broad feel as a result, with firm acidity, but it is well balanced by the substance and grip of the wine. Overall, quite solid, almost creamy in its character, and fairly long in the finish. Certainly an impressive, substantial, and remarkably grippy wine. having said that, I have no idea where this is going; is it going to blossom into maturity, or just dive into an impenetrable funk? It’s hard to know; I’m glad I opened this bottle now. 16.5/20 (July 2012)
Château Rives-Blanques Sauvageon (VdP d’Oc) 2008: This is barrel fermented, and is not your average Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose there is a firm, rocky minerality, and exotic fruit elements suggestive of stone fruit and pear skin, although with a deep, savoury, wild and feral character. Alongside is a richer, toffee-melon edge most probably a residual element from the oak. It also has an appealing matchsticky element to it which gives it a really attractive feel, and which enhances the minerality. The palate has a similarly well defined savoury substance, surprisingly deep with a good meaty-fruit character. A fine substance, with fresh, defining acidity here, and overall a really very attractive, pithy, tropical style backed up by a dense phenolic backbone, giving a slightly bitter streak – attractively so – into the finish. It is pretty long too. Lots of winemaking and style here, but overall I like this. 16/20 (July 2012)
Château Rives-Blanques Limoux Trilogie 2008: Perhaps the domaine’s most successful wine, this is a blend of the three varieties of Limoux, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac. There is also some oak here too, as evident on the nose, which although attractive with its sweet citrus tones reminiscent of orange zest and orange oils, rich and defined, there are also cashew nut edges from the barrels. I also find some peachy notes, and a scented character, giving it a very lightly musky edge, as well as hints of acacia. On the palate it has a sense of tense, structured poise, with lightly pithy fruit, dry and grippy, with good fruit texture. There is still quite some grip reflecting the oak élevage here. And it is still very primary, at not-quite four years of age. Clearly there is some serious potential for further development here, a thought reinforced by the wine’s sappy, lengthy, grippy finish. This is one that should have been left in the cellar. 17/20 (July 2012)
Château Rives-Blanques Cuvée Xaxa Vendange d’Hiver (Vin de Table) 2004: The domaine’s sweet wine. A slightly burnished lemon gold hue in the glass, golden but with deep and dusty hints at times. The nose carries some sweetness, with scents reminiscent of lemons and marmalade, the lift of the fresh citrus fruit combining quite nicely with the sweet, lightly perfumed, orange-tinged richness. I find an overt sweetness on the start of the palate, but this is offset by a steely structure and a slightly bitter frame. This persists through the wine, which shows a dusty and very tangible substance in the very middle, a feature which stays alive right through to the finish, where a more savoury, spicy element dominates. The considerable length is where this bitter structure materialises most readily. An attractive wine. 15.5/20 (July 2012)