On previous visits, I have tasted with Pierre and Marie-Claire, but this time we met the next generation, their son Thomas, and daughter-in-law, Camille. She is very articulate and gave us a informative account of the creation of the estate. Pierre was born in the village of Roquetaillade, but his parents’ grapes were sent to the cooperative. And he went to work elsewhere, first in Buzet and then at the Château de Tracy in the Loire valley for 13 years. It was Didier Dagueneau, the talented and original Pouilly Fumé producer, who encourage Pierre to return to Roquetaillade, so that Pierre considers Didier to be the godfather of Mouscaillo. Pierre bought 4 hectares of vines and made his first wine, a Chardonnay, in 2004; in 2006 he recuperated a hectare of Pinot Noir from the cooperative, and now has six hectares in production. His wines focussed on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and very successfully.
However, with the next generation, things are evolving. They have begun making sparkling wine, with a first vintage in 2010, planting some Chenin and have grafted some Mauzac. Camille talked about the problems of Mauzac; everyone tends to use the same very productive clone for Blanquette, but happily a conservatoire of Mauzac is being developed, with different clones and rootstocks. They are planning a still wine. Both Camille and Thomas studied ecology, before realising that they really wanted to be wine growers, and returning to Roquetaillade at the end of 2016. The idea of ‘saving’ an old grape variety really appeals to them. There are apparently as many as 80 different clones of Mauzac in both Limoux and Gallic, and also Mauzac Rose, as well as Blanc. If you only use one or two clones, this can render the grape variety much more susceptible to disease.
Camille insisted on Limoux as a terroir d’altitude, at 400 metres, so that you feel the effect of the Pyrenees, with cool nights, making for freshness in the wines. They do not have the drought problems that can occur elsewhere in the Languedoc, and indeed in warmer part of LImoux. The village is at a crossroads; they have both Mediterranean garrigues and pine trees.
Our tasting began with 2018 Chardonnay, from barrel, from two plots, south-facing St. Pierre and north facing Mouscaillo, vinified separately and then blended together, with a fermentation and élevage in wood, as is compulsory for the appellation of Limoux. They use 500 - 600 litre demi-muids, with light toasting to oxygenate rather than boiser the wine. 2018 was a complicated harvest; the ripening process suddenly stopped, and they did not know why, so they stopped picking and then the grapes suddenly ripened. In 2017 they had finished picking the grapes for their Crémant by the end of August; in 2018 they had barely begun the harvest in early September. However, the wine had firm acidity and was tight and stony, and still very youthful.
2018 Pinot Noir was light red in colour, with fresh perfumed fruit and a dry finish. They have just one hectare on a south facing slope, but are planning to plant some Pinot Noir on a north facing slope so they can observe the difference.
NV Crémant, disgorged in February 2019, comprises 70% Chardonnay, with 10% Chenin Blanc and 20% Pinot Noir was light and creamy. They only use the first free run juice and both the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in barrel, which is rare in Limoux, and the wine is given six months élevage, with some bâtonnage. It was elegantly rich. Rather than adding sugar for the prise de mousse,they add grape juice, some Chenin Blanc, for which the fermentation had been blocked by chilling. They don’t want to increase the alcohol level, and if you add sugar, you do, by about 1º. And at disgorgement they top up the bottles with wine.
Our tasting continued with some more Chardonnay.
2017 was nicely rounded, with good addict and dry elegant fruit. 2017 was a hot dry vintage, and the wine has good tension
2016 was more charmeur, with a more expressive nose and more supple and elegant, while 2015 was quite firm with a touch of wood, more tension and a dry finish. And the mini-vertical finished with 2004, which was still extraordinarily young, with fine acidity, notes of honey and hazelnuts and almonds, and a long lingering finish.
They insist on the fact that Chardonnay from Limoux will age and have developed a policy of selling a wine that is ten years old, currently the 2008, for 32€ as opposed to 16€ for the current vintage.
Next came 2017 Pinot Noir - 17.00€ - with lovely fragrant fruit, cherries and raspberries. It was youthful with supple tannin and elegant weight and a fresh finish. 2016, which had spent 12 months in barrels, again had lovely fresh fruit and length with more integrated tannins. The grapes are destemmed and the maceration time depends on the vintage. They don’t want too much tannin or colour.
And our tasting finished with their first Mauzac, from vat. They want acidity and the wine certainly had fresh flavour and a certain sapidity, with some appealing herbal notes. And then we adjourned to their house next door to the cellar for a very convivial lunch and enjoyed the warmth of an open fire on a grey day in Limoux. Visiting the abbey of St Hilaire afterwards, with its fine church and cloisters proved a very chilly as well as awe-inspiring experience