Caryl (English) and Jan (Dutch) swapped a globe-trotting life for the backwaters of Cépie, in Languedoc’s hilly, chilly Limoux. They founded Rives-Blanques (named after a Pyrenean peak) about 20 years ago, and now cannot even imagine they ever did anything else, or ever lived anywhere else in their lives. Their son Jan-Ailbe has taken over as winemaker and vineyard manager, and is assuming responsibility of the brand with his sister Xaxa.
This beautiful, organic estate of 22 ha of vineyards, is surrounded by woodland, and encompassed by the European-funded Natura 2000 reserve, which helps protect and foster its valuable biodiversity. Varieties of wild orchids and colonies of bats are as home here as are the wild boar and deer roaming the woodland. Chenin Blanc has been growing at Rives-Blanques in tandem with Chardonnay since 1970, alongside traditional gobelet-trained mauzac vines planted over a decade earlier. Perched on a high terrace of the Aude valley, the resulting ground soil is a truly unique mix of mineral and pebble-rich molasse dating back to the Eocene age, which encourages a really interesting expression of these white wine grapes.
It is unusual to find a vineyard making only white and sparkling wines in a region dominated mostly by red, and latterly rosé wines: what you could call a genuinely Outsider-ish sort of place.
There’s no room for complacency or sitting on laurels, but over the years we have been hugely encouraged by reviews written by the world’s top wine writers. 18 points from Jancis Robinson – and 96 points in Decanter for a white Languedoc wine – is not to be sniffed at, nor is its selection of a Blanquette de Limoux (ours as it happens) as one one of the top wines of the year. The top wine guides, such as Hugh Johnson, Bettane & Desseauve, la Revue du Vin de France coupled with a nice sprinkling of stars from the Guide Hachette go a long way to helping us along the way …