Bernard from Domaine du Fourn
A relaxing morning and lunch in Limoux – friday is market day so lots to excite the senses. We head off after lunch to St Polycarpe – less than 10km from Limoux. The impressive Domaine Baron’Arques, owned by the Rothchild family, certainly shows it’s pedigree. Its own weather station, beautifully tended vineyards, well equipped tasting rooms all back up the Rothchild image. Of course the wines are wonderful (with prices to reflect all the investment!) A short drive through rolling vineyards towards St Hilaire for a guided visit of this 15century Abbey and obligatory visit to the cellars where sparkling wine was first discovered in 1531. Next stop is completley different – one of our favourites. Domaine de Fourn, with its cobwebbed covered hand dug cellars – and one of our exclusive tastings. Over 10 vintage blanquettes and cremants are to be opened and discovered – going back to the 1970’s -all accompanied by homemade patés and other delicious nibbles. Our host Bernard – ex-rugby playing blanquette producer from 3 generations – is, as always, gracious and patient with his visitors and is amazed by the interest, knowledge and above all stamina of the group! We roll out of there quite late and luckily it’s only a short drive home!
Jennifer chanelling her inner Roman woman!
We called this day Roman as we visited an important site – the Museum of Amphoralis near Narbonne, where one of the largest industrial production of amphorae, roof tiles and household earthen ware, was situated. During out guided tour, we were greeted by Helène Serrano – a specialist in roman wine and her neice who actually makes wines to the traditional Roman recipes – vin antique as it is called. We tasted this wine in different areas of the museum, while learning all about the fascinating methods of production and why this site was so successful and important (natural resources of wood and clay, vineyards, naviagable waterways). Lunch was in the reconstructed workers house and of course we had a Roman lunch based of real roman recipes of the day. Romans used to eat alot of sweet and sour together and the main course of a game stew was flavoured with dried fish sauce, aniseed and other delicious flavours.
We returned to Limoux relataively early as dinner was at a local wine merchants, where we were entertained by friends of Jean-Luc – on accordion and guitar – with contributions from Jean-Luc on vocals and of course Richard who was itching to join in – he has wonderful tenor and singing in French poses no problems for him!. Dancing and singing all round, of course accompained by local wines and tasty canapés – another memorable day over.
Happy people with Laurent Vives at Domaine Mayrac
Mayrac and Malpère
A later start to the day and some off-roading in the bus! Taking a track up behind Couiza, we meet Laurent Vives from Domaine Mayrac. Here we admire the view of the Pyrenees in the distance and his vinyards down in the valley. Laurent explains with passion his love of terroir and how he defines each parcel of vines to make a different wine. A professional setting for the wine tasting means that the wine circle is at ease and ready to spend over an hour sampling his range of wines – which they find every bit as interesting as Laurent! He and his team from the cellars have also prepared a wonderfum 3 course lunch – presented and served with style – olny the best for this group and we had to literally drag them away! Wine purchases safely stored in the bus, we headed for a short stop at the Domaine experiemntal de Cazes, which is funded by in part the Chambre of Agriculture and local co-operatives. Here they grow hundreds of different types of grapes using different methods. They also have over 70 ‘micro’ vinifcations each year – all of which helps wine growers adapt thier methods and stay one step ahead of the game – especially with climate change already having an effect in the region. Then over to the Malpère wine region – Chateau Belvèzes where the glamorous Isabelle Malfosse showed us aroud her Domaine with its impressive trees – some over 400 years old. A surprise tasting matching edible flowers and wine was certainly a real eye-opening and a tastebud tickler! There were oyster leaves, begonia flowers, bananna mint and stinky cheese leaves (a replacement for camambert!) Isabelle’s husband, Guillaume, who loves abit of mischief invited people into the vats – quite afew obliged and found the experience quite fun! A short drive back to Limoux, where dinner and relaxing ended the day.
Hotting up in the Corbières
Our first stop of the tour was with Anne Lignères from Château La Baronne in Moux. Always a pleasure to see Anne as she not only speaks excellent English, she also has a great sense of humour . She needed all this good humour as she showed us her organic vinyards- some dating back 120 years. She has had very little rainfall for a number of months and as a result her vines were very stunted with some grapes no bigger than peas. As she has been organic and bio-dynamic for a number of years and knows her vines are strong enough to withstand the drought but her yeild will be much lower this year. The group absoutley loved the visit – with the fascinating teracotta amphores and ‘eggs’ for both fermenting and ageing. They loved her wines even more, especially the vermentino and her 100% carrignan. A great start to the tour.
Free lunch in Narbonne – nothing nicer than dining like a local on a terrace -watching the world go by – luckily we left no-one behind as we headed out of Narbonne and had an interesting guided visit to the Abbey of Fronfroide followed by a tasting in their cellars of the wines produced there. A happy but tired group then headed back in the bus to their home for the week – the Hotel Modern et Pigeon in Limoux.
Alison et moi sommes allés voir Philippe et Jane travailler dans les vignes la semaine dernière. C’est la fin de février et l’hiver commence à faiblir, mais il y a encore beaucoup de travail à faire. Philippe est viticulteur. Il cultive ses raisins et les envoie à la cave « Anne de Joyeuse à Limoux ». Ses vignes sont situées autour du village de Roquetaillade, à environ 10km au sud de Limoux. On y trouve les cépages comme le merlot et le pinot noir, servant à l’élaboration des a.o.c. rouge, et du chardonnay pour les blancs. Jane travaille pour lui à temps partiel, la majeur partie de l’année et à temps plein pendant les vendanges. Elle prend son chien avec elle et un thermos de thé chaud! Quand elle a vu les photos elle a trouvé qu’elle avait de la chance de ne pas se couper les cheveux avec son sécateur.
Philippe au travail
Jane en taille de Pinot
Également nous avons quelques photos du vignobles des Côtes du Roussillon, près de Perpignan, qui montrent certains vignobles taillés et d’autres non taillés, tous en attente de partir bientôt dans une nouvelle croissance. Ciel bleu clair, vue sur la vallée pas très loin du pic de Bugarach – je suis sûr que c’est une raison fantastique de faire du vin ici !!
L’hiver est le temps de la taille. Pas question de rester blottiS près du poêle à bois, le travail à cette période ou la vigne est en repos végétatif est très important, il fait parti des travaux les plus longs et les plus fastidieux du vigneron ( car souvent dans le froid et l’humidité). Tailler la vigne, c’est préparer la prochaine récolte. Ici on est en taille guyot, ou Jane et Philippe vont laissé sur le cep un sarment à dix bourgeons, appelé long bois, et un petit sarment de deux bourgeons, le courson de rappel. La taille est extrêmement importante car elle détermine le nombre de grappes par pied, et ainsi la récolte. Pas assez de raisins, c’est une petite récolte, et un manque à gagner pour des vins à valeur marchande medium, ce qui est le cas de la majorité des vins que l’on trouve sur le marché, souvent entre 3€50 et 6€50. Trop de raisin, c’est la qualité du vin qui est moindre.
Travail difficile bien sûr, mais indispensable, et partie intégrante de la vie dans le vignoble.