Celia's blog

Musings on life in Lodeve, Languedoc

Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

Nimes and Uzes

Posted by celiahukins on 02/04/2012

After some time in the UK, I flew back to Montpellier airport where I had left the car, and then drove to meet up with my brother in Nimes. After staying overnight we set off for the Pont du Gard, which was the main reason for our trip. Unfortunately it was very misty, so we couldn’t see the bridge at its best, as it is on the postcards against a blue Provencal sky, and as I had seen it the last time I was there. And indeed I didn’t bother to pick up my camera, so no photos. However as there weren’t many visitors we were able to enjoy the peace. And then just as we had left the car park thinking that the mist would last all day, it suddenly lifted. Not worth turning back and paying another 15 euros for the car park, so we headed on to Uzes.

Uzes is a former Huguenot centre and was a prosperous silk town until it was bypassed by the railway. We found a parking space just by the cathedral (free at lunch time – thank you France) and the impressive Tour Fenestrelle. We explored the town and bought some local wine, including Costieres de Nimes, from a little shop at the back of a courtyard (carefully selected bottles, “pas trop cher”, we specified) and then it was time for lunch nearby in the sun.

Afterwards we strolled around the town and got a different view of the cathedral, and then drove back to Lodève via the Gorges de l’Hérault.


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And what of Lodeve?

Posted by celiahukins on 05/01/2012

And what of Lodève? An autumn with heavy storms, strong winds and rain. However, as it was very dry in September and October, the weeds had not had chance to take hold. As Christmas approached the sun appeared and we have sat outside on several days.

For the Christmas meal (venison) I had hoped to buy some red Puech Auger wine which I had tasted at Montpeyroux Caves Ouvertes in the Spring. We left messages on their answerphones – no response – so decided to drive round that way one morning. There was no sign of life; in fact the other shops seemed to be shut up too. I presume that you don’t expect to buy your wine there at that time of year. Or maybe they had sold it all to China. I do wonder why they didn’t respond to my messages though. Anyway, here’s the champagne we enjoyed on Christmas Day.

There has been much activity in the garden. Christian our neighbour has found a man to clear and widen the path down He and his assistant do it all in two days.

We’re now waiting for him to come back and install the fence he has bought to keep out the wild boar.
And there are always the olive trees to prune…

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October days

Posted by celiahukins on 26/10/2011

I’d planned to keep up with the blog but was frustrated by problems with a new internet box (Why didn’t I keep the old one? Do we really need internet TV?) As I write this the weather is autumnal and it has rained for the first time since I’m not sure when. Earlier in October we had lots of sunshine and it was a great time for my favourite Muscat grapes. The man at Lodève market was starting to pack up his stall and sold me all these grapes for 2 euros.

Now it’s Autumn it’s time for the vin nouveau, with various events round and about. I was invited to an aperitif at the local wine shop to celebrate the primeur. The invitation said 7.00, but we had to wait for 45 minutes until the manager arrived before we could have a glass of wine. “Only in Lodeve” people muttered. The nibbles when we finally got to eat them were enjoyable, the primeur perhaps not one of the best – too fruity with not enough body, in myopinion.

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Sunset, moonlight and aubergine caviar

Posted by celiahukins on 28/08/2011

We arrived at Montpellier airport from Birmingham on a Friday evening. Around the Place de la Comédie were stalls for the Estivales – an event which happens every Friday in the Summer with lots of wine and local produce. We bought glasses for 4 euros each; these entitled us to try 3 different wines. One we found was Puech Auger, which I’d come across at the Montpeyroux wine tasting I went to in May and was as good as I remembered. After the wine we slept well and after the usual petit déjeuner outside the station at Chez Paul we caught the 8.30 bus to Lodève. We reached Lodève in time for a look round the market and a glass of rose (why not?) before walking up the hill to the house.

We needed to stock up with food; I wanted to see what local produce was available at this time, bearing in mind that this was what we might be eating in the future years when our vegetable patch is operational. I went to the greengrocers in Lodève who sell produce from their farm in Gignac. They had aubergines, peppers, cucumber and courgettes. The aubergines were 1 euro the kilo, which meant that I bought 3 for just under a euro. This gave me an opportunity to make aubergine caviar, which we had previously only had in tubs from SuperU.

Elizabeth David thinks aubergine caviar is “sometimes rather idiotically so called”. Well she may have a point but I can recommend it anyway. I haven’t found the ideal recipe yet (If I do I’ll post it), but the principle is this – cook your aubergines until you can scoop out the flesh from within the skin. I did this by roasting them in the oven, studded with garlic, basted in olive oil and wrapped in foil, or there are various other options (boil, grill etc). You then puree the flesh with some chopped skinned tomatoes and add chopped onion, parsley, basil and whatever spices you fancy – cumin, curry? We enjoyed it cold as a starter with a Sancho baguette – if you don’t live near Sanchos then just use the nicest bread you can find around.

There were a few pears on our pear tree – they don’t taste of much but when stewed gently in Muscat with blackberries from the garden they made a good dessert served with crème fraiche.

Eating outside in the cool of the evening, we linger over another glass of wine or a Muscat, watch the bats and wait for the Pole Star and the Great Bear to appear in the sky

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Oysters at Lodeve market

Posted by celiahukins on 04/05/2011

As ever the Saturday morning market calls. Fortunately it’s not raining as it was last week. A quick tour of the stalls (local strawberries, asparagus, broad beans – you know the sort of thing) and it’s time for the local tradition of a pichet of white wine at the Bar des Halles, with oysters from the oyster stall just outside.

All the usual people come and go at the café; a chance to have one of those long philosophical discussions with Paul, fuelled by more wine and a second dozen oysters. At 2 pm the tables are cleared away and the cleaning van comes round – goodbye until next week.

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Montpeyroux caves ouvertes

Posted by celiahukins on 22/04/2011

Last Sunday was Montpeyroux’s Caves Ouvertes, a day when the 15 wine producers all open their doors. This is a great opportunity to discover small producers and taste their wines. The wineries are tucked away around the narrow streets. A group of ladies known as “grapillettes” do the tour of them all, reciting a verse and dancing with the proprietor. At each stop they are offered a glass of the owner’s wine. I’m not sure what their dancing would be like by the end of their tour; I was there in the morning.

The wine tasting is best done with some cheese to refresh the palate between tastings. Here’s a good place to keep your plates.

I’m not a wine expert although of course I appreciate the variety of Languedoc wines. To read more about the wines of Montpeyroux go to Taste Languedoc blog
and for Languedoc wines in general go to Love that Languedoc

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Summer aioli

Posted by celiahukins on 05/07/2010

The days get hotter and the pace of life gets slower. Now it’s July and there are traffic jams at the weekend as people start to head away for their holidays. On Saturday we invited our neighbours round for a meal. I decided to try my hand at aioli. Michelle had lent me a book which has lots of wonderful local recipes; I bought a copy of my own (from Amazon.fr, although it its hard to obtain). The essential ingredient of course is garlic, but there are many other options – should I add potatoes, how many egg yolks, what spices? I finally settled on a version with 6 cloves of garlic, 3 egg yolks (could have been 4 but I only had 3 eggs) 100 g potato puree and 25 cl olive oil. You can see the result in the photo. The yellow is due to the addition of saffron. The vegetables go with the aioli; the ham and cheese also go together as their flavours complement each other. We bought the ham and cheese from the market that morning, from a young couple who explained this to us. They told us they loved England and wished they were there (we didn’t).
We had a pleasant evening, following the aioli with barbecued gigot, cheese and peaches in Muscat (a Waitrose recipe, but acceptable anyway) and sat outside until midnight. Today it’s 33 degrees and I’m keeping cool inside with the fan on.
Note:a comment at the end of the Waitrose recipe suggests using Muscat sec and adding sugar. Now why on earth would you do that with Muscat dessert wine around everywhere?

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Autumn festivals

Posted by celiahukins on 20/10/2009

Wine tour

So summer is over, but never mind, there are so many things to celebrate in the autumn – mushrooms, chestnuts, and of course the new wine.

I spent the weekend driving around in search of wine festivals, to take advantage of the special offers that the vineyards have at this time. This has involved negotiating narrow village streets in search of the cave cooperative, trying to find somewhere to park, sometimes reversing with someone’s living room much too near the side of the car. In spite of these awkward situations (I didn’t scratch the Clio, but was relieved I didn’t have the Golf), it was pleasant driving round in the October sunshine with the hills of the Languedoc on all sides.

nut stall

On Saturday I went to the chestnut festival at Saint Jean de Fos, a village on the way to St Guilhem le Désert where I hadn’t been before. Their special offer was 6 bottles for the price of 4 on selected wines. There were also stalls selling mushrooms and various sorts of nuts; I bought 2 sorts of mushrooms, including mousserons which go well in omelettes. Their smell lingers in the kitchen now.

Sunday’s festival was at Saint Saturnin, where wines had 20% off and I bought 2 cases. I haven’t got the calculator out to see which was the better buy, but we now have a little store in the mas which will see us through the winter (well at least until Christmas)

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Vin primeur

Posted by celiahukins on 20/10/2009

Les primeurs

Last Thursday, the third Thursday in October, was vin primeur day in the Languedoc. In Northern France, as the weather is colder this doesn’t happen until November (as in Beaujolais Nouveau) but of course everything ripens earlier here. The wines go down very easily but I’ve saved some to enjoy later on.

The Minuscule had a special evening to celebrate the wine (“Le Prem’s” from Saint Felix-Saint Jean). Poems were read, songs were sung – and Gisela, in fine form, wore a splendid red dress; I’m sorry I don’t have a photo.

I’ve been visiting various wine festivals around the region (remaining sober, I should add, as I was driving) but more of that later.

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Wines of the Larzac

Posted by celiahukins on 07/04/2009

Jean Jean Vineyard

I’ve cheated a bit here as this is actually a picture of the Jean Jean vineyard at St Félix de Lodez; I was there in February. More about that later, but at the moment I’m thinking of another visit.

On a sunny Tuesday morning in late March I went to the Mas Fabrégous vineyard with some friends. As we drove up the narrow twisty road to their house I got a new perspective on Soubes; I’m not used to being on the level above the houses, as usually we follow the road straight through the village and on to the Forest of Parlatges.
Corinne and Philippe live in a stone house with rooms on several levels. We look at out at the trees just beginning to come into leaf, and Corinne offers us some wines to taste. As we talk the phone keeps ringing; sometimes it is a business enquiry, but it can also be Philippe’s mother who rings rather too often. We passed her house on the hill as we drove up. The rosé wine is named after her – Le rosé de Juliette. I’ve promised to translate their leaflet into English, since the previous translation was meaningless. However it‘s not an easy task. In the original translation “les graves et éboullis caillouteux” was just translated as “stones”, which perhaps might be the best option after all.
After a taste of several of the vines it’s nearly lunchtime, which of course can’t be missed. We drive back to Lodève down the windy road. The driver has only had one glass of wine; I make a mental note that if we come back again and I’m driving I shall have to watch what I drink, or the car could easily be over the hillside. On the way down we pass cherry tress; our friends used to come and pick the cherries, but many of the trees are dead now.
My friends invite me for lunch – quiche, grated carrot and lettuce salad, followed by strawberries. A simple meal but very enjoyable.
I’m looking forward to another visit to Mas Fabrégous when I’ve finished translating their leaflet.

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