If you were of legal age (or almost) in the 1980s, you may remember throwing back a couple of wine coolers — and feeling fancy about it too. They were all the rage in the post-Riunite, pre-Zima age, when on TV commercials a Moonlighting-era Bruce Willis even hawked “golden” ones made by Seagram’s, belting out a bluesy ditty touting how “they’re wet and they’re dry…my my my my.” Sweet and fruity, wine coolers were ubiquitous at high school parties and a welcome antidote to anyone averse to beer. But, truth be told, they weren’t very good, and thankfully they quickly went the way of blister-inducing jelly shoes and dorky peg-legged jeans.
But the category has gotten a resurgence recently in the form of the modern version of a chic refresher from Southwest France. Blanc Limé dates back to 1950s Bordeaux, where it was popular at outdoor brasseries and also served at local festivals.
In its simplest form, it was a mixture of wine and lemonade that was meant to be simple, fizzy, fun and endlessly quaffable, with a low-ABV that made it apropos for brunching or as an apéritif. But, that didn’t mean it tasted cheap or was produced with sub-par ingredients. Au contraire, Blanc Limé started with local white Bordeaux wine.
“If the customer was young, they added more lemonade to make it with less alcohol, if they wanted a stronger cocktail they added a small amount of lemonade,” says Jonathan Ducourt, who works for the winery as the sales director. “Its simplicity made it popular for parties, lunch breaks, dancing, [and] it was a refreshing drink for a hot sunny day.”
Now you too can be transported to day drinking the afternoon away at a tiny bistro table overlooking the vineyards. Ooo la la.
The Ducourt family’s roots in Bordeaux date back to 1958, when they settled in Ladaux, a small village in the Entre-deux-Mers, where in 1951 Henri Ducourt began making wine. Today, his children and grandchildren now manage 450 hectares of wines and fourteen châteaux in Entre-Deux-Mers and Saint-Emilion — one of the largest family wineries in Bordeaux.
Back when the rest of us were popping the top off a bottle of Bartles and Jaymes Peach, the Ducourts were busy making quality sparkling wine. About 30 years later, in 2011, they decided to recreate the beloved hyper-local libation, starting with a blend of zesty sauvignon blanc and sémillon mixed with sugar from their grape juice, well water and natural aromas from fruit extracts like lime and grapefruit. They gave it a dose of effervescence via carbon dioxide for a refreshing prickle on the tongue and bottled it at a totally accessible 8% ABV. It quickly caught on in France — and now is available around the world.
Not surprisingly people soon began requesting a pink version, for which they used merlot and cabernet sauvignon and released as Rosé Limé.
“We used the same methodology, [but] instead of citrus fruits, we added red fruits [like cherry, gooseberry and strawberry],” Ducourt says. “It gives a softer touch to the rosé but is still very refreshing.” The company remains the only producer of Blanc Limé and Rosé Limé.
Ducourt says la boisson is best enjoyed well-chilled over ice and garnished with a mint leaf or slice of lime. But you can also mix with either flavor —his favorite cocktail tops ice with lime, Cointreau and Blanc Limé. They also have an affinity for Lillet and Lillet Rosé.
As for that comparison to the wine cooler, well, let’s just say that Blanc Limé has proven to have way more longevity than New Coke or shoulder pads. “It has already crossed many generations, for sure it is here to stay for a long time.” Bien sûr.
Thirsty yet? Here are three recipes to whip up:
2 oz. Aperol
4 oz. chilled Blanc Limé
2 orange wedges, 1 reserved for garnish
Fill a goblet or wine glass with ice. Add the Aperol and Blanc Limé, squeeze 1 orange wedge, stir gently and garnish with the other orange wedge.
1 oz. Gin Rosé (like Malfy Rosa, Glendalough Rose or Beefeater Pink)
2 oz. chilled Rose Limé
2 wedges of lemon
Orange peel, for garnish
Add ice to a rock glass, add the gin and Rose Limé, squeeze the lemon wedges and add to the glass. Stir gently and garnish with the orange peel.
2 oz. gin
1 oz. elderflower liqueur (St.-Germain or St. Elder)
2 lime wedges
4 slices cucumber
3 oz. chilled Blanc Limé
1 splash soda water
Cucumber slices and lime slices, for garnish
Add the gin and elderflower liqueur to a cocktail shaker, muddle the lime wedges and cucumber slices, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, top with Blanc Limé and soda water, stir gently and garnish with the cucumber and lime slices.