Settle an argument between me and my friend: Which region has been making sparkling wine longer – Limoux or Champagne??
This is a debated point among us wine scholars too. It might be a draw for you and your friend (and the sake of your friendship)!
The claim is that Limoux was purposefully making sparkling wines – that is wines intended to be bubbly – much earlier than Champagne. Many people point to the legendary Dom Perignon’s time in that region before living in Champagne as further support.
There are a few fundamental problems with the Limoux claims, namely that there isn’t much evidence to support it. For starters, Dom Perignon, like most others, considered bubbles in wine an accident to be avoided. He didn’t cooperate with sparkling wine production until the very end of his life in Champagne. Dom’s presence in Limoux prior to Champagne doesn’t support sparkling wine production taking place in that region any earlier.
The other problem: lack of recorded references to sparkling wine in the region. Many records of Limoux wines kept by locals and travelers passing through certainly exist but fail to mention sparkling wine – something which would have been remarkable in these early years. The one mention in recorded documents that is purported to refer to sparkling wines of the region mentions a wine called “Blanquette,” which is technically the name of the local grape variety Mauzac. Maybe this was just an abbreviation by the traveler for a very early version of Blanquette di Limoux, or maybe it was simply a reference to Mauzac wines. The world will never know for sure – and this is literally the only document that would settle this oft-debated fact.
If you ask me, the lack of documentation, and the lack of sturdy glass bottles prior to the 16th century are enough for me to feel like it’s not probable that they were first to make sparkling wines as they eventually existed in northern France in Champagne. Maybe some type of Petillant Naturel may have existed? But still the lack of mention of any time of bubbly wine creates too much uncertainty.
But in the end- who cares? They both make delicious bubbles!
Aubrie Talarico is part of Eno’s team that answers your toughest questions or curiosities about wine, beer, spirits, sake, and cider. Email questions to email@example.com and read the answers in Eno’s E-newsletter!
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