A stunning, fruity dry white made from 100% chenin blanc and from an estate that has earned a reputation for its still whites. Good with or without food.
Product Code: FC31011
View all products by Château Rives Blanques
Château Rives-Blanques is 22 hectares of wildflower and clover strewn vineyards near Limoux in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, owned by peripatetic couple Jan and Caryl Panman. Before settling on this beautiful spot they spent many years working in 12 different countries on four continents. They bought the property in 2001 and immediately employed veteran winemaker Eric Vialade, though they have involved themselves in every aspect of the work on the estate. With Eric they have taken a path that is completely respectful of the environment in which they have placed themselves, eschewing chemical fertilisers and pesticides and planting the wildflowers and clover as well as cereals between the vines. Composted grape skins and pips are ploughed back into the soil together with vine cuttings, and in place of pesticides they use pheromones to sexually confuse the insects that might prey on the vines and fruit. In this ecologically friendly endeavour they are aided by the brisk winds and the 350 metre altitude of the property that keep many a disease or fungal infection at bay. The terroir enjoys climatic elements that are both Mediterranean and Atlantic, meaning that grapes will ripen in the warmth brought by the Mediterranean influence, but retain the freshness and vivacity that the cooling Atlantic effect brings with it. This process is aided and abetted by cool night-time temperatures, allowing the grapes to mature slowly and fully. They make a range of wines, both still and sparkling, from chardonnay, chenin blanc, mauzac and sauvignon blanc grown on quartz inflected glacial moraine, clay and sand in the shadow of the Rives Blanques mountain that gives the château its name.
Where do we start in a region so huge? With production nearly three times that of Bordeaux, or more than the whole of Australia, the Languedoc-Roussillon accounts for about a third of all French wine made. The sheer scale of production and the intense competition to channel such volumes through to the market means that in most years supply is greater than demand so prices are kept in check. It is not for nothing that wines from the South of France offer such great value for money. Here you get what you pay for. The trick is to get beyond the gain line and tap into a rich vein of almost endless vinous pleasure. Appellation Contrôlée and Vin de Pays (also known as IGP – Indication Geographique Protegée) - officially, these are two quite different wine worlds that live side by side almost, seemingly, in complete ignorance of each other's existence. Luckily, reality is different and most producers see no conflict between the two and many produce wines under both codes. Nor is one necessarily better than the other. Indeed many of Languedoc's most iconic wines, such as Mas de Daumas Gassac and Grange des Pères, are Vin de Pays. So why the difference? The status of Appellation Contrôlée was gradually conferred to the historic heartlands of Languedoc-Roussillon, in other words those sites in the foothills of the Massif Central and Pyrenees where viticulture has existed since the Romans. Appellation status is also about taste and about wine made from a narrow selection of mostly Mediterranean grape varieties.Vin de Pays (IGP) was introduced to improve the quality of what was then the mass of 'vins ordinaries'. It confers an identity to wines coming from those areas that were planted during the big periods of expansion, mostly in the plain between Narbonne and Pézenas. It allows for higher yields than AC, and, more importantly, allows a much wider palette of grape varieties for the growers to choose from.In terms of grape varieties Languedoc-Roussillon is France's answer to the New World. In the duality of Appellation Contrôlée and Vin de Pays, the conformism of Parisian bureaucracy goes hand in hand with the creative spirit of pure liberalism. So in terms of grape variety, almost anything goes! Native Languedoc and Roussillon varieties are at the heart of all appellation wines. With a changing climate and a tendency to extremes of weather, these ancient varieties are gaining favour.Carignan is the workhorse of Languedoc especially in the drier west. At its best, it produces a wine that is deeply coloured, quite tannic, sappy with brambly fruit. Many producers have woken up to the qualities of carignan if it is treated with respect and low yields are achieved.Grenache produces round tasting wines, often with low tannin and high alcohol and is rarely to be found on its own except in the fortified reds of Roussillon.Cinsault belongs in the heat of North Africa. In the South of France, it is widely grown and can add fragrance and lightness of touch to big brawny reds, but more often it is made into rosé.Like carignan, the native whites are more obviously associated with high production but with careful handling can produce wines of real interest. There is maccabeu and grenache blanc, grown mostly in Corbières and Roussillon. Clairette, grown mostly in the east, closer to the Rhône. Terret is grown extensively around Marsseillan, home of French vermouth. Maybe the best of all is the piquepoul which east of Beziers produces good quaffing dry picpoul de Pinet. Muscat used to be grown exclusively for vin doux naturel such as Saint Jean de Minervois and Rivesaltes but also produces full-flavoured dry wines of some interest.The biggest change in the South of France was the introduction of other grape varieties to help boost quality. For the reds, syrah was the most obvious import and is now widely planted and is usually part of a blend with grenache and/or carignan. Syrah is at its best where there is a little humidity such as in the east around Pic Saint Loup. Mourvèdre is much more complicated to grow but has a real future in areas close to the sea such as in parts of Fitou and Corbières.For the whites, roussanne and marsanne have also journeyed south from the Rhône to add finesse and flavour to Mediterranean blends. Increasingly, the Corsican vermentino, also known as rolle, can be found in blends where it often has a positive influence.Bordeaux has for long been an important connection for the Languedoc with the Canal du Midi there to prove the link. Not surprisingly, Languedoc producers were quick to introduce Bordeaux varieties in their vineyards. Merlot is the most widely planted and in some years has been very profitably exported in bulk to California or back to Bordeaux. The later ripening cabernets are probably better suited to the climate of the south and have great potential.Another revolution across the South of France has been in the quality of the whites. Before new standards of cellar hygiene and refrigeration were introduced, the concept of a fresh, dry and fruity Languedoc-Roussillon white wine was nigh impossible. Growers like Pierre Bésinet at Domaine du Bosc and Louis-Marie Teisserenc at Domaine de l'Arjolle were quick to spot the potential and successfully plant chardonnay, sauvignon and even the mysterious viognier.Regional StylesLanguedoc-Roussillon is such a large region that it is impossible to generalise about the entirety. It helps to divide it into three main sections: Eastern Languedoc, Western Languedoc, and Southern Lanuedoc. The east includes excellent appellations like Faugères, Côteaux du Languedoc, Pic saint Loup and Montpeyroux. The style of wine produced here is often Rhône-like: generous, thickly textured and often high in alcohol. Syrah is the outstanding grape variety and it blends well with grenache and sometimes mourvèdre. Nothing remains static in Languedoc and the old Côteaux du Languedoc is about to be replaced by a new appellation called simply Languedoc. Western Languedoc is more dramatic, mountainous, and much drier than the east, but it's also colder and the austerity of its climate and topography can be tasted in its wines. The carignan grape is often an essential element in many of the reds. Look out for saint-Chinian, Minervois and Saint Jean de Minervois (the latter for muscat based sweet vin doux naturel), Cabardès, Limoux (especially sparkling Crémant de Limoux).The south incorporates Corbières, Fitou and Roussillon. These are dry, hot regions surrounded by mountains which provide a majestic backdrop. Fitou is the oldest Appellation and confusingly comes in two parts. The best wines though come from in between in what is actually southern Corbières. Corbières is the largest single appellation in Languedoc, with myriad different styles from different soils and microclimates. This veritable chaos of crags, gorges, strewn with castles, wild herbs and abandoned abbeys encapsulates the heart of the Midi. The wines all have a little of that wildness and wonder.In Roussillon black schists on the north bank of the Agly make the best reds. These are typically fine and spicy with grenache and syrah. Traditionally the best-exposed sights near the village of Maury have produced sweet fortified wine. High mountains provide the opportunity to plant vines at higher altitudes and make fresher wines. Finally, this vast region ends in a narrow strip of land between mountain and the sea and with Spain on two sides. Twisting lanes and vertiginous vine terraces link the little ports of Collioure, Banyuls and Cerbère. The fortified wines are sold as Banyuls and are mostly Grenache-based with a little carignan. The Collioure appellation is for expressive, full-bodied and refined table wine which can be made from several grape varieties: carignan, syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and counoise for the reds and grenache, roussanne and vermentino for the whites.
2015 is a very good vintage in the south of France and that is so in both volume and quantity. A perfect spring was followed by a hot July and then by a cooler August with heat returning later and harvesting was largely straightforward and problem free. A good year for all colours and at all levels.
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork.
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Now to 2016
Ready to drink now but will keep until 2016.
2018 to 2042
We recommend keeping longer before opening. In 2018 it will be ready to drink but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years.
Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.