In the glamorous world of fizz, limoux hardly gets a look in. You may well not have heard of it at all. It’s worth knowing about though, especially in these days of £10-a-bottle (and often disappointing) prosecco, because in Limoux they make really, really good sparkling wine. Not just good. It’s distinctive, with a fresh, edgy air of hedgerows and meadows and wild countryside that makes it completely right for a Jubilee party.
Limoux is both a town and one of Languedoc’s most westerly appellation contrôlées (AOC). It lies in Cathar country, just to the south of Carcassonne, a tangle of hilly vineyards that give way to ancient forests. Stand among the vines at Château Rives-Blanques in the north and you look out across the valley towards a perfect line of snowy Pyrenean peaks. From Domaine Delmas on the higher ground of the south of the appellation, you can peer between the hills and see the distinctive silhouette of the Pic de Bugarach.
This mountain is said by New Age believers to have deep magical powers that will make it the only place on earth where humans will survive Doomsday, which will apparently take place this December 21. No one knows quite how this will happen; one theory is that a giant alien spaceship will emerge from the Pic and transport anyone nearby to a new universe.
“Some Americans have booked their flights here already,” says Richard Planas, the director of the Limoux AOC, as we hurtle between tastings in his car. “The funny thing is that they’ve bought return tickets…”
They have been making fizz in Limoux for centuries and locals argue that as the first recorded mention of it, in the cellars of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hilaire, dates back to 1531, long before that other Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, was born, their sparkling wine was a precursor to champagne.