It’s that time of year already… everyone’s thinking of summer. Trips to the beach, trips abroad, no school, hairy legs to shave, and umpteen outdoor bbq’s with friends, food and wine.
The lead-up to the harvest, after the big risk period for frost has passed (phew, it’s around now and looks like we’re ok), is a relatively easy-going time in the vines. They’re growing with hopefully enough rain and a lot of sun, and have a few organic treatments here and there etc. Sounds like an ideal summer!
But this is the time Benji begins to stress.
In his head he’s organising the entire lead-up to the harvest and beyond and no-one knows what the weather will do, and how the fruits will develop. There is the cellar to organise, extra work to take on filling in for those taking summer breaks, and prevention of disease in the grapes. Any rainfall during this hot time can be dire.
As I said, this stress is cyclical. And sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally!! Ever had an argument about the ‘correct’ way to boil an egg? (although we ARE in France…).
So getting away last Friday night to the beautiful ‘La Clape’ area was a perfect way to switch off for 24 hours.
La Clape (yes, fair share of commentary) is a lovely seaside wine region (15 00 hectares of vines within the Coteaux du Languedoc apellation) not far from Narbonne. From the town you take a spectacular, windy drive through the rugged hills of Le Massif de la Clape and there’s always a huge gasp of pleasure and surprise when the Mediterranean greets you on the other side. It’s been years since we did this, but it’s still as beautiful and ‘sauvage’ as ever.
We were headed for a gite not far from the beach in St Pierre La Mer, Chateau d’Angles (so lovely, thank you!) and arrived just in time to join our friends for the ‘aperos’. Vanessa’s hot homemade pesto, cheese and tomato pastries were fantastic and went down beautifully with the local white.
Then it was down to business, the men got tending the bbq (sound familiar?) and us ladies fed the kids who’d been on the go ever since we arrived.
Yum! There’s nothing quite like a fresh seafood platter. We ate a blend of raw and bbq’d delights collected from the nearby ‘poissonnerie’. I must admit the seafood platter was half the reason I’d been so keen to come!! Absolutely delicious – you can’t beat the mix of garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, aioli, and burning wood with clams, ‘bulots’ (whelks), prawns, ‘couteaux’ (razor clams) – I could eat like this everyday.
Top it off with a crisp, frsh white or rose and it’s heaven! We followed the local white with a Muscat Sec and then a bottle of Benji’s delicious Viognier. I wasn’t sure about the mouth of the muscat at first. Dry muscat is a strange one sometimes, the nose is so inviting and floral and sweet and then the mouth seems dry and short. But this opened up beautifully. Benji’s white, as always was floral, crisp and fresh. These whites were great mates for the seafood.
Dinner ended being a casual, straight off the barbie affair. No set seating, just constant ‘aller-retours’ with everyone taking turns bringing new dishes to the table. I like this way of eating at the beach. No fuss, just enjoying each other’s company and each new wonderful flavour. As the light dimmed we got out the camper lanterns and popped the kids to bed. Ready for another white!
And a quick plug!… we had an abundance of ininvited mosquitos joining us and the good old Aussie products of Rid and Aerogard came out in force. Must say that the Frenchies were quite impressed with how well the stuff worked!
Like happy campers (and a happy winemaker), we all headed for bed in the fresh of the night.
A day of collecting to follow…