Cellar visits in Limoux - J Laurens
Norwegian friends wanted to visit Limoux, so I arranged to see four of my favourite Limoux producers. The idea was also to enjoy some good walks between cellar visits, but on two out of three days, the weather decided otherwise. So our first appointment was with Jacques Clavel at J. Laurens in the village of La Digne d’Aval.
Buying J Laurens in 2001 was a retirement project for Jacques after a successful career in IT; in fact it has taken over his life; he loves it and it is really a second career. His enthusiasm for Limoux is infectious and he simply could not envisage doing anything else. And why Limoux? It is the nearest vineyard to his origins in the Pyrenees. He now produces 400,000 bottles a year, mainly sold on the export market, from 40 hectares of his own vineyards, supplemented by the purchase of grapes from another 30 hectares of his neighbours’ vines. The price varies depending on the grape variety. Chardonnay is 1.00€ a kilo, compared o Mauzac which is 65 cts a kilo; it is more prolific, reaching 75 hl/ha as opposed to 50 hl/ha for Chardonnay.
Jacques has had the same winemaker, Henri, since the beginning, who was trained by the original champenois owner. He showed us round the cellars; everything is pretty stream-lined. They like to harvest early, in order to retain the acidity. The second fermentation adds 1.5 degrees in alcohol, and if you pick too late, the balance in the wine is spoilt. For sparkling Limoux, everything must be picked by hand. They have the same team each year, who they feed and lodge. They use small boxes, with holes, allowing any juice to escape, and they press very gently, and have two presses in case they need to pick quickly. The potential alcoholic degree can rise very quickly in warm weather. The temperature of the first fermentation is around 15-16C.
Blanquette de Limoux requires a minimum of nine months ageing sur lattes, as opposed to 12 months for Crémant de Limoux. Jacques prefers a longer period for both, and they use giropalettes for remuage. The process takes just four days.
NV Blanquette de Limoux, Lo Moulin - 9.10€
A blend of 90% Mauzac and 10% Chardonnay, with a light colour and a fine mousse. it has spent at least fifteen months on the lees of the second fermentation. The wine has quite rich honeyed nose, with notes of green apples and pears on the palate. There are also herbal hints, with rounded fruit and good acidity. Like all good Blanquette, it makes for an original glass of bubbles.
2016 Crémant de Limoux, les Graimenous - 10.10€
A blend of 60% Chardonnay, with 30% Chenin Blanc and 5% each of Mauzac and Pinot Noir. Light colour. with a lightly creamy nose, and some fine creamy fruit, and quite a rich finish. Jacques like what he calls droiture in his wines, a difficult word to translate in wine terms, and the dictionary says righteousness! I would suggest a wine that is direct, and incisive, with character.
Crémant de Limoux Rosé, no 7 - 11.10€
A delicate pretty pink. Made from 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc and 15% Pinot Noir, which not only provides colour but also flavours of red fruit., after 12 hours on the skins. The nose is elegant with fresh raspberry notes, and the palate is beautifully balanced, with acidity and fruit, and a fine mousse.
2017 Crémant de Limoux, Clos des Demoiselles - 12.20€
The same blend as for the pink Crémant, but without the same skin contact, and with 20 -24 months sur lattes. A light colour and a rich nose, with more nuances than les Graimenous, and more structure on the palate, from the higher percentage of Pinot Noir. There is also an elegant richness. I asked Jacques about fermenting any of his wine in oak, to which the reply was not yet. At an age when most people are well past retirement, that is far from his mind, with new projects and possibilities.