Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where I live!!

I live deep in the countryside of the Minervois in the south of France.
Today has been a beautiful day. Unfortunately I have spent most of it at my computer screen connecting with clients in the UK, USA and Hong Kong. But I managed to get out of the office at 5pm to take these photos of the hills and countryside around the house.
Our house is nestled in the country with the Montagne Noire behind and the villages of Saint Chinian and Saint Jean de Minervois in the distance.

The garrigue ....wild rosemary, thyme, garlic, fennel, gorse and wild oak is in fantastic condition.
The vines are just turning in to their magnificent Autumn colours. We will be treated to yellow, gold, red and crimson vineyards before the leaves drop off for the winter hibernation.

In one direction we are very close to the Pyrenee mountain range. It will soon be ski season!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Narbonne Market 'Les Halles'

French markets are great fun. Every town has a market at least once a week. There are markets for flowers, clothes, food and wine. It seems to be part of the French way of life that is fantastic.
Here are a few random photos of my favourite market in Narbonne. It is a permanent market inside 'Les Halles' on the banks of the Canal Robine.
A wonderful place to grab a strong coffee and fresh croissant first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fires in the Minervois

I recently returned home to the Minervois after a very busy week in the United Kingdom. The drive through the centre of France takes about 11 hours, so by the time I get home I am usually quite shattered.

I went for an early evening walk through the vineyards before planning an early night.
The countryside around our house is magnificent.

At about 9pm I took the bin out and thought that the sky seemed rather bright!!!

The reality was that I could also see flames above the tree tops.....too close to my house. The countryside was on fire and our house was directly in the wind path.

On closer inspection the fire was raging on the hilltops. There must have been at least 50 fire engines and many fire fighters trying to control the blaze.

At one stage we started to pack our bags and plan an evacuation!

Fortunately the wind calmed down and the fire was contained, but the loss of wildlife, the devastation and the general destruction was immense.
Apparently ...according to local gossip....the fire was started by local hunters who had a grudge against another local hunt. I find this totally reprehensible. If a hunter has any respect for nature and the beauty of the land he would never ravage the countryside like this.
There were over 300 hectares of wild garrigue, vines and forest land that were wiped out. Fortunately nobody was hurt.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand humanity.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Food and Wine Matching in South of France

We recently had a delightful group of 8 clients on a Bella Wine Tour.
This trip was a day trip to explore the wine and food culture in the south of France.
The clients were local characters who have homes in the area, so they know a bit about the history and life here. So I wanted to show them some 'off the beaten track' producers and wine and food experiences.

First of all I had to get some excellent fresh goats cheese from the herd of goats at Combebelle, high up in the garrigue hills near St Chinian.

I also got some ripe Roquefort (blue cheese) some Scottish wild smoked salmon, some strawberries, some Comté cheese (hard cheese) and various milk and dark chocolates.

We started by tasting a superb range of wines made by the charismatic couple John and Nicole Bojanowski at Clos du Gravillas.
The wines develop and extend your sensory perceptions as soon as you try different food types. It was great fun.

We then popped in to see Pascale Frissant at Chateau Coupe Roses in the charming village of La Caunette (the village is built in to the hillside).
Pascale and his wife Francoise run this immaculate property in the hills of the Minervois. They have 40 hectares under vine, 10 hectares are located within the La Liviniere Appelation. The wines are good fruity styles, with excellent depth and minerality, which seems to come from the varying vineyard sites. The main problem for Pascale is the abundance of wild boar crashing through his vineyards and scoffing all his grapes.

The beautiful labels of Chateau Coupe Roses.

After all this hard work tasting and chatting we adjourned for a delicious lunch in the stunningly beautiful village of Minerve at Restaurant Chantovent.
It was a great day of food and wine matching.