VINE LINES: A regular newsletter on the vines, wines and times at Chateau Rives-Blanques



Vine Lines, November 2014

Picture above: a fermenting barrel, one of the main actors in this month’s Shakespearean drama 

(“Bubble bubble toil and trouble”)

Incredible that exactly a month ago we were sitting down to our harvest lunch, back-slapping and smugly congratulating each other on a very good harvest. Since then, we have traversed the mysterious terrain that lies between grape juice and wine, and learned all the old lessons yet again: when it comes to wine, nothing is certain, every year is different, and life is full of surprises. Laggardly barrels of grape-juice with only  natural yeasts to provoke fermentation surprised us by getting off to a galloping start – and then suddenly slowing down to a snail’s pace for no good reason at all; the barrels with selected yeasts crawled past the starting block with huge reluctance but then went romping happily all the way home; and a handful of barrels decided to march to a different drum all together and took a side trip into  malolactic fermentation, a truly unusual occurrence for us.  So where did that leave us?

In a word: bemused.

And holding hard on to the  good memories of a very happy and wholly irreproachable harvest (which you can see on this video),  as if hanging on to our  lives.

That  is why we delayed sending this letter until we had actually tasted the wines after they had finished fermenting.  We did that this morning, and were reminded of that other absolute and most important truth: it’s the wine that runs the show, and it hasn’t let us down yet.   Our first sip of 2014 confirmed all that.   There is terrific potential in the blending of all those different barrels … and there were a lot of smiley faces in the cellars this morning.

Limoux was spared the miserable millesime of hail, torrential rain, and tears that afflicted so many of our colleagues in the Languedoc, and at Rives-Blanques we seem to have been given   an added bonus:   a truly worthy successor to the great 2013!  Or at least, that’s what we read in the bottom of this glass …

In that sense, Limoux is blessed – it is so different from the rest of the Languedoc, as discovered by that most writerly of wine critics, the highly lauded and applauded Andrew Jefford. He spent a day and a night in Limoux, took copious notes, tasted a sixtysome of wines, asked perceptive and penetrating questions, and published his findings in Decanter earlier this month, which you can read here – the best and most comprehensive description of why we make the kind of wines we make in Limoux since Jancis Robinson wrote hers six years ago.  The second part will follow in the Spring.


He says that Limoux  kisses the wind … but in fact, “le Limoux” is kissing the sky.  Take a transcontinental flight in the World Business Class of KLM, and guess what you will find there?  Yes!  Our high-flying “finely etched”  blend called Le Limoux ! Needless to say, we are in heaven, so to speak:  it is quite an honour to be  on one of the most respected and thoughtfully constructed wine lists in the sky again.  So if you need something fresh and refreshing on your next flight, there’s what that self-same Jancis Robinson calls a  “crisp mountain wine” on hand for you .


Still  going Dutch, Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum has been renovated, reinvented and rejuvenated by a €375 million scheme which continues to astonish: this month they opened a luxurious gastronomic restaurant, called Rijks, with a Michelin-star chef at the helm.  Of course Blanquette de Limoux was around  long before Rembrandt put paint to canvas, but now  the Night Watch can call it a day and settle down to a glass of bubbles from the south of France.   As well as the Blanquette, our top chardonnay, Odyssée was also selected to join the chefs d’oeuvre on the new wine list.


Talking about old Dutch masters, let’s hear it for Jan who single-handedly fielded an impromptu spot-check from a Qualité Sud de France inspector, heavily disguised as a travelling salesman with a penchant for fine wine. Jan earned us 97/100 points as one of the region’s showcase cellar door tasting rooms, and managed to sell him a case of wine to boot …


Perhaps a good reason to come and visit us!


Until then, we hope, and with our best wishes