Antech Blanquette de Limoux Cuvée Exception 2000
I have found myself focusing on Champagne recently, manifested principally by my new guide to Champagne, although I also have a lot of new notes lined up (from the recent CIVC tasting in London, and also from some recent merchant tastings in Edinburgh and Glasgow) and - especially as I plan to return to the region later this year - perhaps a few new profiles also.
But this focus on Champagne has also led me to think once again about how the region and the wines size up against other sparkling wines. As I confess in my introduction to Champagne, I was once a Champagne 'snob', disregarding fizzy libations from other regions as automatically inferior. Thankfully I learnt my lesson, many years ago now, that this just isn't true. There are great sparkling wines to be found elsewhere, and I have perhaps three favourites. The first two are examples from the Loire, sparkling Vouvray from the likes of Huet or Foreau. Next up, again from the Loire, Saumur can also provide some really delicious bottles, not just from the big names such as Bouvet-Ladubay and Langlois-Chateau but from smaller producers too - the Bulles de Roches from Roches Neuves tasted at this year's Salon was a great example.
Another region producing wines of comparably high quality, however, is Limoux, and that is the source of this week's wine. This is the Blanquette de Limoux from Antech, a bottle I purchased when I visited the domaine last year. I say 'domaine' - the offices are actually located in a small industrial estate outside the town - it's just that domaine seems more appropriate somehow! The wine in question is the Cuvée Exception, 2000 vintage, and it is a Blanquette, meaning it is dominated by Mauzac (otherwise known as Blanquette, a name derived from the downy-white hair on the under-surface of the leaves). This variety accounts for 90% here, with the remaining 10% being barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
And so to the wine, which has a gorgeous appearance in the glass, a rich rubbed-gold, with a fabulous bead, a torrent of bubbles streaming skyward from the base of the glass. The nose is just as expressive as I remember from my tastings of this particular cuvée last year. The nose is full of toasty fruit, so rich it has a golden, toffee-tinged, caramel edge, touched with exotic orange peel. Wonderfully creamy entry, the palate broad and fleshy, rich with a very flattering dosage and a gentle, pretty mousse. The fruit is ripe, and with a fine, slightly bitter complexity. It has a full, slowly fading finish with plenty of sweet-bitter peachy fruit. Although this wine has never displayed the ultimate finesse that can be found in some examples of Champagne, that should not discourage us from drinking it. This is a vin de plaisir, a wine for giving pleasure, with its seductive texture and creamy style. In short - lovely. 17/20 (29/3/10)