Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Trip to Limoux: the birthplace of sparkling white wine

Just this past Sunday, Sam and I decided to venture over to a new French town, one that isn't far away, but as of then yet unexplored. The name of the town is Limoux, and its claim to fame is, in keeping with the French style, booze. I suppose many would list the three month carnival-like festival as the premier reason to visit, but then, that doesn't begin for another couple of weeks, so I will leave that for a later post.

The sparkling wine of the region is called Blanquette, which basically means white, and doesn't sound very inspired, but then Champagne is just named after a region, so it appears the French weren't being overly creative hundreds of years ago. The Blanquette of the Limoux region dates back further than the creation of Champagne and is said to be the first sparkling white wine ever made. The good monks of the local abbey apparently discovered it by accident, but after that the idea stuck. Legend states that good ole Dom Perignon stole the secrets of Blanquette and hightailed it over to Champagne, and there the bubbly beverage was given its most popular name. Some experts, however, note that certain Blanquette varieties are just as good if not better than it's more famous cousin. I had a couple glasses of the sweeter version, and though I am no aficionado, it tasted pretty damn good to me.

Limoux also boasts the “longest carnival celebration in the world.” I have no idea if another town somewhere can claim the same, so I'll just take their word for it. It runs from the end of January (sadly we missed it, but are planning to go back) through February and March and into April. I'm not exactly sure what's involved, but costumes, parades, music, and wine must be included. Count me in!

The two of us wandered over on Sunday, and unfortunately the local wineries (so, wine tastings) were closed. Without the carnival on the town was quiet, but still brimming with the charm that comes with old French towns. We stopped by the main square first and stopped into the local cafe for a giant cup of cafe au lait and a couple yummy French pastries. After that, we wandered around the winding stone streets and eventually made it down to the river, the Aude. The sun was shining for most of the morning so we took advantage. As the sky started to turn grey, we went inside, specifically inside the home of a married teacher couple that Sam works with in Carcassonne. They were friendly, welcoming people, with two very cute and intelligent children. We spent the rest of the afternoon with them, eating and conversing in French.

The bus ride home, like the ride there, was lovely, and I can't wait to make it again when we return during carnival time!

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