Historical Facts !
Venice may boost the oldest Carnival and Rio the largest but Limoux claims to be the longest carnival in the world. Really? Yes, for being nearly three months long – it can hold the record! Starting 1605, the Carnival of Limoux was not a traditional carnival show, but a series of folklore performances in its purest form, without any modification. For this reason, it is one of the displays that adheres to the roots and traditions of the city. With 600 dancers belonging to 30 different troupes ensuring that their festivities can be sustained three time a day, every weekend, plus Mardi Gras from the end of January until early April, therefore it remains the longest. Historical Fact!
Carnaval de Limoux is thought to date back to the 14th century, when local millers celebrated submitting their flour royalties to the Prouille Monastery on Shrove Tuesday, by handing out flour and sugared almond dragées to the townspeople. It’s incredible to think that for hundreds and hundreds of years, these celebrations have been taking place in quite the same way, even down to the proceedings being conducted in the ancient Occitan language on the final night of the festival each year.
And during these revelries there is a great many glasses of a special sparkling wine consumed. The city's wine is produced under four AOC designations: Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette méthode ancestrale, Crémant de Limoux and Limoux, the first three of which are sparkling wines and dominate the production. The main grape of the region is the Mauzac, locally known as Blanquette, followed by Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
Blanquette de Limoux is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France, created long before the Champagne region became world-renowned for the sparkling wine Champagne. The first textual mention of "blanquette", from the Occitan expression for "the small white," appeared in 1531 in papers written by Benedictine monks at an abbey in Saint-Hilaire. They detail the production and distribution of Saint-Hilaire's blanquette in cork-stoppered flasks. The region's location, just north of the cork oak forest of Catalunya, gave Limoux producers easy access to the material needed to produce secondary fermentation in the flask, which produces the bubbles necessary for sparkling wine. Historical Fact!
Wine historians believe that the world's first sparkling wine was produced in this region in 1531, by the monks at the abbey in Saint-Hilaire. Local lore suggests that Dom Pérignon learned how to produce sparkling white wine while serving in this abbey before moving to the Champagne region.
The unique wine region's combination of Mediterranean and Atlantic influences has created ideal conditions for the slow, even ripening of the region's white wine grapes. Despite being located at a southerly latitude, the climate is cooler and moister than in most of the wine regions in southern France. Its location in the foothills of the Pyrénées allows the vineyards to be at a higher elevation and planted in optimal locations on hillsides. Blanquette de Limoux can contain three grape varieties: Mauzac (which must constitute a minimum of 90% of the wine), Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc. Prior to the 1990 introduction of the Crémant de Limoux AOC, the use of Mauzac was optional. The change to the mandatory minimum of 90% Mauzac in the AOC regulations of Blanquette de Limoux was seen as a safeguard in maintaining the traditional style and preserving the use of the local Mauzac grape which is declining in worldwide plantings.
If you are going to be going to Limoux for revelry and tasting at the source, try and be there January 17 so that you may solve the mystery of the Blue Apples. This is not just any day but peculiar appearances of the date in regard to Rennes le Chateau at the Church of Mary Magdalene, just a little east of Limoux. One of the church’s remodels involves the installation of stained-glass windows, one featuring Lazarus. It is from the Lazarus window that light shines through and creates the appearance of ‘blue apples’ or colored orbs at midday on January 17th on the church’s wall.
The mystery of Rennes le Chateau began in the late 19th century with the appointment of Berenger Sauniere as priest for the area’s hilltop church. The church of Rennes le Chateau was said to be in total disarray, and in urgent need of repair upon his arrival. With the little money Sauniere was able to gather, he slowly began to make updates in order to restore the church and lands. Then suddenly he seemed to have an endless supply of funds....some say he discovered a cache of treasures. After the inauguration of the Church in 1905, Sauniere embarked on major construction projects throughout the mountain top village. Including· the Tower Magdala, the neogothic tower that housed a portion of his immense book collection, a spectacular Mediterranean-style house called the Villa Bethania, a semi-circular belvedere which hugged the side of the cliff with a second tower at the end of it, crowned with a conservatory and loaded with thousands of books, an Orangerie, and a park with fountains and a small zoo. With brazen disregard for the Catholic faith, the renegade priest Sauniere also filled the Church of Mary Magdalene with a bizarre collection of religious statues and paintings. Historical Fact - Rennes le Chateau does exist!
But where did the funds come from??? Definitely not pennies from heaven. That is why the mystery of Rennes le Chateau still exists, and many question remains, ‘what valuable treasure or secret did Berenger Sauniere discover?’ If you are interested in solving the mystery head to Rennes le Chateau but carefully, there are frequent switchbacks and the severe pitch of the road up to Rennes. As with anything involving Rennes le Chateau, it always seems a person is left with more questions, than answers.