The Saint-Hilaire Brut 2017 is a blend of 90% Mauzac, 5% Chardonnay, and 5% Chenin Blanc sourced from grapes farmed in the Limoux area of the Languedoc in Southwest France. The Sparkling wine of Limoux is 100 years older than the Bubbly of Champagne. Saint-Hilaire is the Abbey were history first records monks producing Bubbly/Sparkling wine (I am not saying Champagne, because only Bubbly from Champagne can legally be called Champagne, with a few exceptions…check out a bottle of Andre’s). This particular Bubbly is designated a Blanquette de Limoux which by AOC law must be at least 90% Mauzac grape, a local grape long associated with this wine. There is also a Cremant de Limoux, Cremant is French for Sparkling wine and these wines can have a greater percentage of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc if Mauzac ain’t your thing. And if you need more history Thomas Jefferson drank Blanquette of Limoux, after he passed away an inventory of his wine cellar showed several cases on hand.
The Saint-Hilaire brand does not date back to the 1500s, just Limoux Bubbly produced in the Traditional Method. Champagne adapted the Limoux method to make their Sparkling wines and made the technical advancements that we recognize today. The Saint-Hilaire is fermented twice, the first fermentation is the same as all still wines and the 2nd fermentation happens in each and every bottle. With The Saint-Hilaire, the 2nd fermentation lasts 12 months, in Champagne, the 2nd fermentation must extend to a minimum of 18 months. In some ways, the Bubbly of Limoux may be more closely related to Cava, the Spanish Sparkling wine, produced in Catalonia, Spain. Catalonia is a bit south along the Mediterranean Coast. Brut indicates the Saint-Hilaire is a Dry Bubbly and the alcohol content is 12.5%.
The Tasting Notes
The color is a pale hint of gold. The nose is delicate, crisp apple, a little bakery bread, pear, peach, soft lemon, and lightly floral. This is a crisp Bubbly, with a slightly husky taste profile. It starts with an apple, core and all (I have tasted Saint-Hilare in past vintages where the apple core flavor was pronounced, but for 2017 it is very mild), lemon, tart lime, and soft grapefruit. The mid-palate adds a salty, nutty sensation, crusty bread, and slightly sharp spice. The acidity is well-controlled, enough to allow the flavors to flow, but not enough to bite. The finish has some oomph and lasts awhile.
- What we have here is a French Bubbly with almost 500 years of tradition, produced in the expensive Traditional Method, and sells for around ten bucks (I found it at Cosco for $9.99). Really what more do you need?
- If you are not a fan of the Mauzac grape, Cremont of Limoux with more Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc may be more your style. But any Bubbly that can survive for 475 years must have something going for it. Give it a try, you will be amazed at what $10 can buy.