harvest is coming

la liv panneau

…any day now.

Benji’s hovering over the grapes, ready to pick what will be a very late harvest… it’s about three weeks later than previous years.

And he has a (very enthusiastic) little helper, checking on sugar levels.

lilas checking grapes

a Naked tour

extraordinary-naked-people-metamorphoses25 from Haokuhu (from '4Shared')

Time for your attention and a little update on something Benji and I enjoyed this Summer! (but sorry, you won’t find us in the fleshy mix above).

We hit the road and joined the Naked Wines Tasting Tour of the UK!

There were many special moments, but here’s a glimpse of the wonderful people we met and re-met and chinked glasses with, from all corners of the winemaking world, as we travelled the countryside in a tour bus driven by the lovely Bob, in late June, to show our wares.

the bus in Cardiff
our bus parked out the front of Cardiff City Hall
in the bus!
on the road
the Naked Tour
a bit of spilt red…

Norwich, Cambridge, London, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham – nearly each stop on the 2012 tour (Benji and I could only make half of it) was sold-out and each tasting event held in a beautiful venue of each town.  It’s an impressive sight seeing the doors open to hundreds of wine enthusiasts ready, with ther glasses poised, to try over 140 wines.

glasses to go
glasses to go
tasting in Manchester
tasting in Manchester

tasting Manchester

France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, the U.S. and bien sur, Australia! – these are the countries that the winemakers selling their wines with Naked Wines hail from and what a great bunch of people they are!

It was brilliant to finally meet people behind the names I’d seen and admired from the Naked website – and get to try their wines.  We got to chat on the bus, over the breakfast table, behind a tasting table, over a take-away pizza, watching the Australian cricket warming-up in the nets at Lord’s, on a walk trying to find the nearest public loo, disco dancing on a dancefloor until the early hours…  You know, quality times like that. It’s not often I get out of my hamlet and hang with people from around the world in such a short time.  We had so much fun.

And then of course, there were the tasters!  A thriving mass of curious, enthusiastic, incredibly friendly people who came out to our tastings and worked their way through the hundreds of bottles.  Benji and I loved the atmosphere of each tasting and picked up good feedback, first-hand, on his wines.  It was hard not to soak up the fun – obligatory tasting required for quality checks ; )   And then there were all those wines from everyone else that we hadn’t even tried yet….

All in all a wonderful tour.  I kinda like being the Vigneron’s helper.

Ryan does London
Ryan does London
Naked people
what a lovely bunch
the dudes outside at Lord's
out the back at Lord’s
uk tour 2102
a UK tour
some of the wines on show
just some of the wines on show…

And after every good wine tasting, there comes a delicious all five food groups breakfast…

next morning's helpers
…next morning’s helpers: pain killers in a vending machine and a full English breakfast – the lady serving our breakfast in Southampton spied my Vegemite and plonked a whopping jar of Marmite on the table – she insisted I eat ‘their’ stuff while in their country

And they all (well, apart from the couple we saw having a tiff under the tree in Cardiff) went home happy.

going home
heading home

what the poker men drank…

no, he didn't win!?!!
up for grabs, but he didn't win!??!!!!

So no, he didn’t win.  Big shame as I was doing the food shopping the next day.  Ah, the trails of a housewife…

They got through a few bottles between them though!  Please note, that all comments on the wines however, are mine!  Even if I wasn’t playing, the wife does get to try the vino!

Here’s the damage:

Chateau Maris Rose 2010

Chateau Maris Rose 2010
There's no label, but this is the left-overs of this delicious Chateau Maris Rose 2010, made from 100% Cinsault (a grape that grows very well in our region, the Langedoc Roussillon). This grape variety is the fourth most planted in France!

Macon-Peronne en Chassigny 2008

Macon-Peronne en Chassigny 2008
Macon-Peronne en Chassigny 2008: nice to try this Burgandy, but I thought it was a bit flat. Sorry guys!

Chateau Maris ‘Continuite de Nature’ 2008

chateau maris carignan 2008
Chateau Maris 'Continuite de Nature' 2008: yes, you've seen this one before. One of our absolute faves at the moment and tasting well everytime.

Chateau Villerambert Julien Minervois Rouge 2004

Chateau Villerambert Julien 2004 Minervois
Chateau Villerambert Julien 2004 Minervois: a very old family winery dating back a few generations, in Caunes-Minervois, one of the most picturesque villages around here, known also very well for its 'Caunes marble' - a rich, deep pink/ochre colour streaked with white. I think this is a syrah/ grenache blend and was enjoyable but the wood a little too strong.

Chateau Maris ‘Las Combes’ 2009

Chateau Maris 'Las Combes' 2009
Chateau Maris 'Las Combes' 2009: one of Benji's again... a great, 100% old vine grenache (yes, the grenache, but under a different guise). Gorgeous nose and fragrant.

Benjamin Darnault AOP Languedoc 2010

Benjamin Darnault AOP Languedoc 2010
Benjamin Darnault AOP Languedoc 2010: a wine from the Naked range. A delicious organic 'big' red from St Chinian. One of my favourite apellations.

There you have it.  If it sounds like I’m biased towards Benji’s reds, it’s correct!  But please be aware that I am very open-minded when it comes to tasting all the wines.  It just happens that I tend to enjoy his.  Fortunate that!

a Naked tasting… time for some wine

cadavres on the table
'cadavres' (what Benji calls empties) on the table

Thought you were going to see a cheeky image of naughty bits??

Sorry, no, it’s Summer and this is often what our table looks like the morning after…

Glasses are cleared but the bottles are waiting to be packed and emptied at the village recycling bin (and how the old mesdames and messieurs of the village, seated on their bench, must love counting how many wines that Aussie girl manages to consume).

one of my favourite postcards!
...well it's not exactly the 'dames du village', but one of my favourite postcards. Can't bring myself to asking the real local ladies if I can take their photo!

It’s now past the middle of August and I can’t believe how quickly Lilas’ school holidays have passed, how many interesting people have stayed or called by,  and how much wine and food we’ve consumed.  It seems like a non-stop degustation here sometimes, with the Beroccas coming out first thing in the morning, but things will certainly slow down now that ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time) are approaching and Benji prepares the cellars for receiving grapes.  Soon he’ll be working a seven-day week and mostly absent from our daily timetable.  It’s an intense time until all grapes have been picked and are safe in the tanks or going through the press, so it’s good to make the most of it with family and friends time in this heat.

The bottles photographed above are the empties from an evening with some of the ‘Naked’ crew.  Joe from Naked and is family came to visit, one warm and windy night and an informal tasting turned into a bottle fest (with Lilas and the kids meanwhile transforming the living room into a Playmobil playground) with everyone trying the whites and reds from Benji’s range together with local cheeses, bread and mountain lamb (big merci to our friends Vincent and Isabelle who were staying that week and gave us a huge help in the kitchen – the bbq’d lamb was a treat!).   It’s always great to meet new people around a table of wine, glass in hand and every Naked tasting we’ve had has been full of laughs with interesting people from all parts.

a Naked tasting at home
a Naked tasting at home. Thanks Joe, Anna et al!
Benji's labels for Naked
The prototypes for Benji's Naked Wines range - a collboration between Vincent and Nick

You’re probably wondering what on earth Naked is.  It’s a company in the UK called Naked Wines and Benji makes and sells wine with them.  It’s been just over a year since the collaboration started and we’ve met so many great people – customers and other winemakers – and had lots of fun tasting the range over dinners, lunches and informal evenings like this one.  I know it sounds like a plug – and it is!  But seriuosly, all puns aside, it is an energetic company run by young people with enthusiasm and a love for wine, and fuelled by a community of customers – people buying and tasting wine from anywhere in the world and then sharing their experiences online.  Benji’s range has done well and we’ve learnt a lot from the forums and the feedback people have offered.  Thanks to everyone, Rowan, Joe, Amy, Sam, Fran, Simon, Frankie, Kevin, everyone, for the ride so far!

fun and wine

A night with La Clape

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.

running on the beachLa 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.

local delights for dinner

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…

shells from La Clape