Happy Birthday Canal du Midi

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Canal-du-MidiImagine a time before motor vehicles when the pace of life was slow and the work was hard. In those days moving produce out of Languedoc was difficult and involved a long sea voyage around Spain and Portugal or along rough, rutted roads with a horse and cart. Wine was moved from wineries in barrels, on carts from villages to towns but to move it any further caused it to spoil with the jostling of the cart.

In the 17th century the market for wine was where the population was growing, mainly in the north, in larger townsOld Canal such as Paris but also the lucrative export markets including Holland and the British Isles. In the parts of France that had navigable rivers or where towns were close to the Atlantic such as Bordeaux, it was reasonably easy to move wine north. For Languedoc the nearest Atlantic port was Bordeaux but due to a protectionist law known as the Bordeaux Privilege hardly any Languedoc wine left the French shore from Bordeaux. The only choice left to the folk of Languedoc was a long sea voyage around Spain and Portugal which could also spoil the wine.

Limoux Carnival

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“Te Counaissi” – it looks and sounds familiar, and yet….. If you happen to be in Languedoc between January and thelimoux Carnival two weeks before Easter, and you’re passing through the town of Limoux, it could well be an expression you hear. It’s the tease or taunt spoken by the masked Pierrots taking part in the region’s famous Carnival; and it’s your cue to engage the Pierrot in some banter ! Te counnaissi is Occitan – it means, I know or I recognise you, and unlike many other pageants, in Limoux, those who go to watch, also have the chance to participate! Be warned though, they’re fond of showering you in confetti!

We all know the French love a party, and the Carnival of Limoux is a party of pretty extraordinary calibre. Thought to have its roots in the Middle Ages, not even the dark days of the French Revolution could halt proceedings, and it remains the longest running ‘fete’ in France.

Clos du Gravillas Vintage Report

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St Jean gravelLast week the Vin en Vacances team payed a visit to Clos du Gravillas, a boutique winery farming organically on limestone soils in the Minervois. They wanted to taste some of the 2015 wines to see how they are maturing and here is team member Marcel Van Baalens report:

MarcelOn our vineyard tours we get to taste a lot of wines on a yearly basis! Don’t worry, the spit-bucket is our best friend. Tasting so many wines gives us a fairly good idea about the quality and the character of a vintage. But what makes a great vintage? Every vintage is different, and so it should be. To describe a vintage we have to look at all the four seasons. Vivaldi was right! But conditions may vary locally.

We talked to John Bojanowski of Clos du Gravillas, a boutique winery in the tiny appellation of Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, famous for its sweet Muscat wine.

Season Highlights

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020As yet another season comes to a close, and the winter nights invite us to cosy up in front of the fire, it’s a wonderful chance to look back at the highlights of our year.

Vin en Vacances is a special business; it’s a ‘people’ business; it’s what we do, so here are some memories of us, our little team, making lots of people happy.

The 2015 Languedoc Vintage

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006This year I had the impression that the seasons had nudged forward by a month. Spring began during March and although I had the logs crackling on the fire in the evening, the days were often bright and perfect for hiking which I did a lot of. However, during winter we had seen a lot of rain, some of it torrential and the little river at the bottom of my garden was deep and fast flowing as spring arrived. The vines started to wake from their winter sleep in early April and the spring sunshine and warmer than normal temperatures soon had them sporting their tufts of greenery like ribbons twisted into little bows.  Flowering began just as it should and the little green flowers soon turned to baby grapes and by the end of May we had what looked like bunches of ‘petit pois’ beginning their short journey of around 100 days to become sweet juicy grapes.