I like Champagne (who doesn’t?), but I sometimes blanch at the prices. For a French bubbly that’s easy on the wallet, I look to the south of France—specifically to the appellation of Limoux. This pretty Languedoc district is set between moist Atlantic and drying Mediterranean influences, while its rocky soils contain clay, limestone and sandstone—all factors that create a fascinating terroir that allows a variety of grapes to grow.
Chardonnay, which is instrumental in the classic cuvées of Champagne, thrives in Limoux, as does the local white grape known as Mauzac, as well as Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Today, these grapes are blended to make one local version of sparkling wine known as Crémant de Limoux. Chardonnay takes the lead in the blend, and the wines are made using the traditional méthode Champenoise.
One of the best local Crémants is made by Limoux’s forward-looking cooperative, Sieur d'Arques. My wife recently bought a case of the 2006 Crémant for an office party held at our house, and the sparkling wine offered bright apple and citrus flavors, lively bubbles and a hint of toastiness—a delicious deal that cost just $12 a bottle. I rated it 87 points, non-blind.
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