We tend to focus primarily on grapes that are used heavily in the Italian wine industry when writing these articles. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as we are advocates for the Italian wine industry as a whole.
But we also want to be careful about doing a disservice to the many other country’s that contribute to the worldwide wine industry. While Italy will always hold a special place in our hearts, we believe that other countries, and their wine industries, deserve recognition too. That’s why we stock wines from all over the world to go alongside the many Italian wines that you can choose from in our catalogue.
Of course, very few of the countries that produce wine can quite match the Italian industry in terms of history and overall quality. However, France is one of the few that can.
In recognition of this fact, we have decided to take a look at a great French grape. But instead of going for one of the most recognisable grapes to come out of the country, we’re going to shine a spotlight on one of its more obscure, though still completely deserving, varieties.
Here’s everything that you need to know about the Mauzac grape.
So, what is the Mauzac grape?
Also referred to as the Mauzac blanc, the grape is a white variety that’s used in several different wines. It’s grown almost exclusively in the Limoux and Gaillac regions, which are based in the southwest of France fairly close to the coast. It’s also a surprisingly rare grape, as the country currently hosts less than 5,000 hectares of vineyards that are used to grow it.
The grape has different uses depending on which of the regions you’re talking about. The grapes grown in the Gaillac region tend to be used in more aromatic wines, with a particular prevalence of sparkling white wines. While it’s certainly no rival to Champagne in terms of quality, it’s interesting to see that there are wine producers in France who are willing to try to make their mark on the sparkling white wine sector. The grape is primarily used as part of a blend with Len de l’El to create a sweet sparkling white.
For many years, the grape had a bit of a bad reputation in the region due to producers using it in the production of poor quality wines. However, it’s managed to cast off some of this bad reputation in recent years, thanks in large part to a concerted effort by the Gaillac producers of the 1980s to produce much better wines using the grape.
The Limoux region has an even more specific use for it, as it is one of the grapes that are required in the production of Blanquette de Limoux. When used to create this one, the grape may get mixed with Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc. However, it’s rarely used to create wines without being part of a blend.
Moreover, where the grape has gained more respect in recent years in the Gaillac region, it’s actually lost some ground in Limoux. Producers are increasingly favouring the growth of Chardonnay grapes, which is putting paid to much of the limited space that they have for the Mauzac.
Nevertheless, the grape still holds an important place in the French wine industry due to the simple fact that it is one of only seven white varieties that can be blended into a Bordeaux wine. As long as that remains the case, it’s unlikely that Limoux’s producers will give up on the grape entirely.
The Grape Itself
Regardless of the region that it comes from, the Mauzac grape tends to display fairly similar qualities.
It’s a grape that takes a long time to ripen, with the buds traditionally not coming out until fairly late in the growing season. As a result, pickers tend to wait until near the end of the growing season before picking them. Generally speaking, it’s best harvested once the temperatures have dropped, as this allows the grape to take full advantage of the sun.
However, there’s another reason for this late picking. Leaving the grape on the vine until the temperatures drop sparks a slow fermentation which leaves behind many of the residual sugars that are so invaluable during the second fermentation, which takes place in the spring after the grapes have been picked. This process both allows for the creation of a sparkling wine and also lends the sweetness to the wines that those who enjoy the Mauzac grape have come to recognise.
Having said that, some producers now pick the grape earlier in an effort to differentiate their wines. The Mauzac grapes that leave the vines before the traditional cooler periods tend to offer more crispness than their riper cousins, in addition to a high acidity. While this may make the resulting wine more refreshing, it also means that the grape loses some of the aroma that previously made it so popular.
As a result, it’s a good idea to check how the producer harvests their Mauzac grape before buying a wine that contains it. Those looking for a sweet and aromatic wine may end up feeling disappointed if they buy from a producer that picks their grapes earlier than tradition dictates. However, going for the more acidic varieties may give you a new appreciation of the grape if you have previously been put off by its sweetness.
The Final Word
The Mauzac grape is hardly a household name, even in its native country of France. But it’s a much more versatile and interesting grape than many give it credit for. The fact that it’s one of the few white varieties that producers can use in the creation of Bordeaux speaks volumes about its qualities.
If you’re interested in a wine made using Mauzac, check the harvesting dates. This will help you to determine if the wine will offer great sweetness or acidity. After that, it’s just a case of experimenting, as is the case with all great grapes. You’re sure to find a wine that uses Mauzac and suits your tastes.