Last 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: On 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.
This 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.
I first came across the label 'Tinkerbelle' when visiting a winery in Provence last summer. It’s a term that’s occasionally being used in France for female winemakers. To begin with I was not sure it was complimentary but in fact I’ve discovered that it is intended to be. Tinkerbelles are sprinkling their fairy dust around the vineyards and wineries all over Languedoc and producing some top class wines in what used to be a very male dominated profession. I work with a lot of female winemakers and although none of them would like to be known by this appellation alone. They are proud to be winemakers and proud to be women. Take Nicole Bojanowski of Clos du Gravillas who has been producing top class wines for over 14 years from magical terroir. This ‘Tink’ is no common fairy, she works with great thoughtfulness and care producing wines with style and charm. Bridgette Chevalier of Domaine de Cébène in the Faugères appellation is living up to the Tinkerbell name by producing mystical wines that I am sure will become legendary and Katie Jones of Domaine Jones who has been making wine for a few years now has also received great acclaim. However hers’ is no fairy tale, she has had to battle against people in her community who are afraid of the change she and her like are bringing to wine making.
The Vin en Vacances team is growing, we now number 6 wine crazy people and last weekend 4 of us headed for Montpellier and the organic wine show Millesime Bio. To make sure of an early start we decided to stay the previous night so where could a team of food & wine nuts head for dinner? Kate had the answer and I’ll let her tell the story…
A steaming bowl of Cassoulet is brought to our table by Bridget who made it in her bijou restaurant that was once the school in this tiny Languedoc village. We are sitting in the old school room that still has the blackboard but instead of the lesson it displays todays menu. But we take no heed of that for as usual I have ordered Bridget’s delicious Cassoulet for my clients who have signed up for the Saint-Chinian & Minerve vineyard tour. The comforting white bean stew cooked in a garlicky sauce comes in a terracotta Cassoulet and hidden inside is the preserved duck, duck confit as it’s called here. Dotted around are succulent sausages and sprinkled on top are the breadcrumbs baked to a delicious crunch. Its rich and hearty peasant food and its like has fed the people of the Languedoc for centuries and today my customers are tucking in with gusto.