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.