Looney Wines

Wouldn't it be cool to - in a rite - use a wine that has an old and strange history, is sparkling and yet has a much much older heritage than Champagne, looks silvery and cloudy and finally: is produced according to the Moon's cycles... Well, dream no longer: it is Clairette de Die 'methode dioise ancestrale'!

While most of the world believes that Champagne is the 'original' sparkling wine, there actually is one much older. And it has an exiting story to tell...

In the early middle ages, the wine makers in the Southern Rhône area (Dioise), the Northern Languedoc (Limoux) and the Eastern Dordogne (Gaillac) in France learned to make a sparkling wine by usings the special climate of those mountain rich areas. After harvesting the grapes by hand (which they still do!) they pressed and fermented them at very low temperatures. They often used the icy water of the mountain streams to cool down their fermentation barrels. Fermentation at low temperature accounts for very crispy and fruity flavours in white wines.

At that time many farmers used the lunar tides to determine what to do in the fields, being aware of the influence that the Moon has on the growth and development of crops. So did the wine makers that made the sparkling wine. They would harvest the grapes 'three lunar cycles after the midsummer point', mostly around the Full Moon of September when the grapes were at their zenit of maturity and vitality and leave the pressed grape juice to ferment at low temperatures in fermentation barrels for three more lunar cycles. After these three lunar cycles of fermentation they transfered the still fermenting wines to bottles, letting them ferment for three more lunar cycles with no possibilty for escape for the carbon dioxide gasses that are formed during the fermentation. As a result, the gasses dissolve into the wine and present themselves again as bubbles when the bottle is finally uncorked.

One of the special aspects of this method, is that there is still some yeast present in the bottle, which is often visible as swirls of white or silvery clouds in the bottle.

For me, this really completes the picture of a spectacular lunar wine: the lunar cycles that were used to make it, the ice cold waters it was born in, the sparkles it captured during fermentation and the misty clouds that veil this product of pure mystery... Wow!

The 'old ways' that were used in those days are still kept alive and bottles that carry the text 'methode ancestrale' are still made according to this ancient method.

There is even a Brotherhood, the 'Confrérie des compagnons de la Clairette de Die' that safeguard the 'old ways' for the Clairette de Die 'methode Dioise ancestrale' from the Rhône area around the village of Die.

I favour the Clairette the Die, that is slightly sweeter due to the high fraction of Muscat grapes in the blend. But the ones from Gaillac and Limoux are also very good, and - that is the really cool thing about these wines - very affordable! You can pick up a bottle of proper Clairette de Die methode Dioise ancestrale for about € 10,- in most European supermarkets.

Well, that's it for Looney wines or - with a bit more respect - wines made by means of ancient methods, attuned to the Moon itself...

Next time I'll look into very dark and heavy wines... hmmm...!


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