The town of Limoux lies on the river Aude 25 kilometres upstream from Carcassonne. It has two claims to international fame: its carnival (currently in full swing) and its sparkling wine.
The longest carnival in the world
Venice may boast the oldest and Rio the largest, but Limoux claims to have the longest carnival in the world. Around 600 dancers belonging to 30 different troupes ensure that these festivities can be sustained three times a day every weekend - plus Mardi Gras – from the end of January until early April (more precisely, in 2023 the dates are 15 January until 26 March). The Carnival of Limoux is unusually compact. Here, there are no carnival floats, no long parades. Events unfold in the intimacy of the medieval square with a graceful beauty which has been described as a miraculous combination of immobility and movement.
Fake news or hard news?
The first part of this legend gained a little more credibility when a document was discovered in 2013. Dating from 1544, it is a ledger kept by the Limoux town treasurer, and in an entry made on 25 October 1544, he records that various wines were supplied to Sieur d’Arques, and among them were four pints of blanquette to accompany the good lord’s dinner (today, Sieur d’Arques is the name of the main cooperative and it is an excellent place for a dégustation). Unfortunately, other historians soon pointed out that there was nothing in the treasurer’s ledger to say that the wine was effervescent, or even that it came from Limoux. Blanquette was the old name for a local type of vine which we now call mauzac, and any wine derived from the mauzac or blanquette vine was also called blanquette, and although this vine was primarily cultivated in the Midi, it was not exclusive to Limoux.
A longer version of this article was first published in Issue 32 of The Good Life in France Magazine.