The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

11 months ago

Winter 2022

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  • Christmas
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  • Medieval
  • Provence
Discover France’s magical winter wonderland destinations - from the French Alps to the French Riviera. Read about the biggest bûche de Noël, Christmas log cake, in the world and see Paris when it snows. Head to the sweet village of Flavigny in Burgundy where the film Chocolat was filmed and to Rouen, the Ardèche region and Côtes du Rhône. Go gaga for gorgeous Gascony and feel festive at the colourful Christmas market of Metz, Lorraine.Toulouse, feel good films, recipes, guides and giveaways…

Blanquettes de

Blanquettes de Limoux©Anthony Molina Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire_2016_ © Alain François Photographies carnival was often a rowdy affair fuelled by tensions between the rich and the poor. There were frequent stand-offs between hatters, weavers and merchants, and municipal authorities were jeered and even stoned. Today, the carnival is a peaceful affair and the only threat of violence comes on the last night when the carnival king is tried for his crimes. Seven judges hear evidence for and against the poor king, although everyone knows what the verdict will be. It’s the same every year: death by burning. Luckily, the king is only a straw mannequin and he goes up in flames like a Christmas tree. The oldest sparkling wine in the world The last night of the carnival is known as la nuit de la blanquette, named in honour of a sparkling wine called Blanquette de Limoux, the town’s other claim to fame. Blanquette de Limoux promotes itself as the oldest sparkling wine in the world, and there is no better place to taste it than at the carnival. These festive companions share a heritage that stretches back to the 16th century, and according to some sources, the slow rhythmic gestures of the carnival dance represent the peasants pressing the grapes with their feet. But how did the wine first get its fizz? The legend of Saint-Hilaire The Abbey of Saint-Hilaire lies halfway between Carcassonne and Limoux. It was founded by Benedictine monks in the early ninth century. Before long, they were tending vines, and a document from the year 931 records that a vineyard was donated to the abbey. In the bedrock beyond the cloisters, the monks dug out caves, and this is where they made and stored their wine. One day in 1531, a monk was sent to fetch a bottle, and on removing the stopper, he discovered that a second fermentation had taken place. The wine was fizzy. By accident, the monks of Saint-Hilaire had created the world’s first sparkling wine. The story does not end there. A century later, legend has it that the monks received a visit from one of their brothers in the north. Naturally they served him their sparkling wine, and the good Dom Pérignon returned to his monastery at Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers in Champagne with the recipe hidden in his habit. Fake news or hard news? The first part of this legend gained a little more credibility when a document dating to 1544 was discovered in 2013. It is a ledger kept by the Limoux town treasurer, and an entry records that various wines were supplied to Sieur d’Arques, and among them were four pints of blanquette to accompany the good lord’s dinner (today, Sieur d’Arques is the name of the main cooperative and it is an excellent place for a dégustation.) Unfortunately there was no mention of the wine being effervescent, or even that it came from Limoux. Blanquette was the old name for a local type of vine which is now called mauzac, and any wine derived from the mauzac or blanquette vine was also called blanquette, and although this vine was primarily cultivated in the Midi, it was not exclusive to Limoux. So, although today a wine can only be called Blanquette de Limoux if it is effervescent and contains at least 90% mauzac, we know little about the wine that Sieur d’Arques was drinking in 1544, apart from its name. Silencing the doubters We have to wait until the start of the 19th century for the first written confirmation of effervescence: in 1801, a certain Dr Fau claimed that his sparkling mineral water was far superior to Blanquette de Limoux with its frothy fermentation. Some wines from Limoux were undoubtedly effervescent before then, but it is impossible to say when this became a reliable and deliberate characteristic. In conclusion, although the claims of seniority made by Blanquette de Limoux remain unproven, nowhere else has presented a more credible pitch for the title, Oldest Sparkling Wine in the World. Come to the carnival, follow a troupe of dancers into a bar, and you won’t find anyone who doubts the legend. After a few glasses, neither will you. 76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77