It’s that time again: La vendange

Remy and Gait
Gait (manager) Remy (owner)

One might imagine that things get rather quiet in a small rural village after the tourist season draws to a close. Yet, that is not the case. As early as late August, the vignerons begin the harvest. There will be some unfamiliar faces as young people from all over europe arrive to help get the raisins (grapes). From before seven in the morning until the last shards of light fade away the streets are a hive of tractors, grape harvesters and vehicles filled with pickers on their way to the vineyards and large trailers brimming with freshly harvested grapes.

Local beauty
Local beauty

The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small region than in the entire United States.  A wide variety of grapes are grown here such as Grenache, Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Languedoc wines cover a rather broad spectrum, from white to red; sweet to dry and of course sparkling which pre-dates Champagne (but that will be another post and another time). The region proudly cultivates the vines on over 700,000 acres here along the Mediterranean coast. It is thought to be the single largest wine-producing area in the world.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is arid, warm and brimming with sunlight. The rugged terrain of herbs, brush and resinous plants infuse the wine with their scents and flavours. It is the ideal terrain and climate for growing grapes. While the quality became secondary to quantity for a time in the early twentieth century the hard working vignerons  committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.

My neighbour, Remy,  makes a lovely collection of organic wines and also grape juice. If I am lucky, I can buy a few of the days pickings that did not end up in the vats. Gait is a manager for Remy and has the “honour” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back (porter). Being quite tall, he must bend to allow the pickers to dump the fruit into the container on his back which quickly fills. He follows around all of the people who are cutting the clusters of grapes and then transports his container when filled to the trailer which will quickly be transported back to the cave and on its way to the vats. While it is true that large machines harvest a vast amount of the grapes, a number prefer the hands on approach. Additionally, some of the terrain is such that this is not a viable option.

DELICIOUS!
DELICIOUS!
Tomek
Tomek (seasonal worker from Poland)

Most of the workers are seasonal and some speak little french.
The perfume of fermenting grapes begins to fill the air as fêtes de vins fill our weekends with tastings, dances, music and more. They last well through November even though the last grapes have been harvested. While these photos are all taken at Domaine Sainte Juste, and Embres – Castlemaure there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more vineyards just a few kilometers away. Embres – Castlemaure is a cooperative and Durban has a wide variety of Vigneron (wine grower) There are at least thirteen seperate caves here. In addition, there are many who have smaller vineyards and make wine just for personal use or sell to a cooperative.

Vineyards are everywhere
Vineyards are everywhere

 

Porters, Corneilus and Yost
Porters, Corneilus and Yost

 

If you want an extreme workout, try the porter’s job. The receptacles they carry on their back hold 60 kilo or a little over 132 pounds. They are carrying these up and down hills and then taking them to the awaiting trailer to be hauled of to the cave.

Fill those containers and keep moving!
Fill those containers and keep moving!

 

 

 

 

Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste
Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste

 

 

Remains of the day
Remains of the day
Embres - Castlemaure Cooperative
Embres – Castlemaure Cooperative
Fruit on the vine
Fruit on the vine

 

Load it up!
Load it up!

Remember, you can always click on the photos to enlarge them.

Bisous,

Léa

 

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Bio Marché

New plants for your organic garden...
New plants for your organic garden…

The first Sunday in June is the Bio Marché. It fills much of the area behind Chateau Bonnafous near Villeseque des Corbières. The setting is perfect for the event as there is plenty of room for all the vendors and space for a petting zoo, roaming musicians and even a bicycle powered carousel. I am particularly drawn to the carousel with its characters a coccinelle (ladybug), cricket, grenouille (frog) and a Grasshopper.

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On a carousel

 

The arts are represented in many ways. There are woodcutters, basket weavers, jewelry makers, artists painting children’s faces and more.

 

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Buy a basket to place your other purchases in…

 

Bees wax candles and local honey. Does it get any sweeter?
Bees wax candles and local honey. Does it get any sweeter?

 

Creating...
Creating…

 

Demonstrations and sales of Ektaras.
Demonstrations and sales of Ektaras.

The Ektara is an instrument which is new to me. It is both stringed and the base is a drum.

A neighbour, Simone is there with his organic wines. Delicious!
A neighbour, Simone is there with his organic wines. Delicious!
Simone is also a poet and of course he happened to bring a few of his books...
Simone is also a poet and of course he happened to bring a few of his books…

 

Paté to confit de canard...
Paté to confit de canard…

 

Patric and his wandering musicians
Patric and his wandering musicians

 

Woodcutter
Woodcutter

 

Fresh and aged goat cheeses
Fresh and aged goat cheeses

 

Breads and pastries
Breads and pastries

 

Even gluten free treats!
Even gluten free treats!

 

Petting zoo
Petting zoo

 

Some of the larger animals...
Some of the larger animals…

 

This wine has a hint of cherry
This wine has a hint of cherry and quite delicious!

 

Cherries, cherries and more cherries at their peak!
Cherries, cherries and more cherries at their peak!

As always, there is more than covered in these photos. You can buy an organic meal and enjoy it in these beautiful surroundings. Handmade kitchen knives and other cutlery are available from local craftsmen. There is always something for everyone.   Bisous, Léa

Contest! Help name…

As some of you know, I have been writing/publishing two blogs for the past two and a half years: http://foundinfrance@wordpress.com and http://poetryphotosandmusingsohmy.wordpress.com

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What most of you are not aware of, I have previously published two collections of poetry and have two more in the works (early stages). In addition, I have recently begun my first novel.

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At this time, I would like to find a fitting name for my business. So far, a few ideas have come up:

*Lavender Press  

*Press de Tournesol/Sunflower Press

*Corbières (something) Press or (something) Corbières Press

The Corbières is the heart of the wine region where I live and where my heart found a home. Did I mention I love our local red wines? If you follow Found in France, or visit, you will have seen a number of posts from this region with photos. It should reflect the area, the work or both. The selected name will relate to the work I do and my love of France and/or my location.

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While I have no prize to offer at this time, my dear friend Christine reminds me, “if people only want to offer suggestions if there is a prize then I say those offerings aren’t worthy!” It will earn my gratitude and mention on the blogs and can include the link to your own blog.

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For real inspiration, visit Christine at:    http://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com  and Carly Jay at: http://bruisesyoucantouch.com

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Bisous, Léa

La vendange

Fruit of the vine
Fruit of the vine

It seems that most everyone here is involved in La vendange (grape harvest).

Sunshine on our shoulder...
Sunshine on our shoulder…

More grapes are grown in this region than anywhere else in France.  Even before the last of the grapes are picked, the celebrations begin.  The festivities seem to never end as each village hosts its own so there is always one to attend, throughout November, and sample the wares.

While it seems that increasing numbers are being picked by machine, much of the land here is just too steep for them. It is back breaking work and the cutters used to take the fruit are very sharp.

It is almost a rite of passage that young people from other parts of Europe head down to the vineyards of France to pick grapes and enjoy the country. At the end of the vendange, our village hosts a dance. The wine festivals come later but since there is no set time for vignerons to begin their harvest, it will usually stagger over the months of September through early November. There are places like Leucate where they produce a Muscat (often very sweet) and begin in the August heat!

The vendange I followed and photograped took place in the tiny village of Embres. It is only a few kilometers from my village and they produce one of the best wines around. My friend Cees (Corneilus) insists Embres wine is the best! They produce a

Embres - vin cave
Embres – vin cave

range of reds, white and delicious rosé.  He will not get any argument from me.  While it would have been lovely to get inside the vin cave to photograph the process, it is just to busy and I would have only been in the way.  Perhaps there will be a future post inside? During the vendange, you can barely get into the little shop where you can buy a bottle of Trois, Pompador or any of their other delicious wines.

One of the pickers is a charming woman named Paloma who was asked to help out a few years ago and said she would give it a go! While many of the pickers are young, they are by no means the entire force. At the beginning of the day, Cees walked up to Paloma and tried to secure a lovely pink rose in her hair. With all the bending, it didn’t last too long but was a lovely thought.

On this team, there were two porters, Cees and Yost. They walk about the vineyard with a large plastic container strapped to their backs. They must keep an eye out for the smaller buckets of the pickers

Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma's hair
Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma’s hair

which fill rapidly with the grapes and need to be emptied and carried off to the waiting trailers. Each of the containers holds between 50 to 60 kilos of grapes. Imagine yourself carrying around over 100 pounds extra on your back in the hot sun all day.

There was evidence of feasting by sangliers (wild boars) they can do a lot of damage to the vineyards. One local hunter went as far as to have one stuffed and mounted on the roof of his bergerie (sheepfold) where he lives. The unlucky sanglier will end up on a plate and are considered good eating.  Yes! People do live in old bergeries here. They buy them, renovate and sometimes extend the sheepfold into charming and comfortable homes. However, that just may be another post?

Bisous et bonnes santés,

Léa

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Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Raisins (French for grapes)
Raisins (French for grapes)
The other porter on this team, Yost
The other porter on this team, Yost
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Cees and his Lamborghini
Cees and his Lamborghini

MUSÉE 1900

Musée 1900
Musée 1900
Hairstyle anyone?
Hairstyle anyone?

Visit the 1900’s while during a visit to one of the most beautiful villages in France, Lagrasse! Take a tour with an audio guide into a fascinating period and surround yourself in the enchanted period of Belle Epoque!

Theatre anyone?
Theatre anyone?

A decade ago, Cyril and Isabelle Codina, winegrowers came up with a different way to share their passions and provide their guests with a delightful trip in time and the opportunity to sample their wares. What you will experience here is a family project with several generations contributing to its success. The passion of parent who have accumulated a vast treasure of objects from a bygone era. There are over 3000 dolls, many toys, tools for a vast variety of uses. There is a coiffure/barber shop and furniture shop well stocked as you would have found them at the end of the nineteenth century. The proprietors with the assistance of masons, cabinet makers, ironworkers and seven artists worked for over three years to bring this vision to fruition. The museum is over 300 sq. meters and accessible to all.

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Hats, Jewelry

Collections are divided into scenes of life. There is a theatre, school, The different collections are divided into scene of life: the school, the home of master, the back kitchen of the winegrower ¦ or still in old trades: coopers, bazaar, headgear, watch-making, jewelry … Pigeonnier: In 1900 pigeons were important to the vigneron. Special housing was created for them removed from the village. There droppings were a threat to water sources  but they were also valuable as fertilizer, eggs and meat. These pigeon huts were quite detailed to encourage the birds to stay

A few of the many dolls
A few of the many dolls

and nest. Actually, the accommodations were much less primitive that the vignerons own housing. TASTING WITH CYRIL The museum 1900 offers you several courses of tastings to theme, derived solely from our artisanal production. 1 Route: red and white wine. The more fruity (carbonic maceration) to wine of custody (breeding in new barrique). 2nd course: 19 different vinegars. This atypical, original and fun allows you to travel quality products acidity, sugar, texture and flavour. 3rd course: spirits as the guignolet, Cartagena, vendange tardive … several ways to create the aperitifs or digestifs to craft methods and

Vinegar making
Vinegar making

ancestral. 4th course: the olive oils: 4 varieties of olive oils. They include the local varieties: Lucca, oliviere. Some oils very surprising as the wild oil with its aromas and herbaceous oil assemble with its aromas slightly blites. There is something for everyone and then there is the surrounding village to explore. There are numerous delightful restaurants, shops, the abby and so much more. What is offered in this post is such a small part of what is on display.

Dolls that represent the moralities the child was expected to have
Dolls that represent the moralities the child was expected to have

Bisous, Léa

Would you care to taste...?
Would you care to taste…?
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA
Furniture maker
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Pigeonnier
School days
School days
Models of area circa 1900
Models of area circa 1900

Limoux

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Park near the river and it is a short walk to the square

The last day with Yvonne and Pauline they decided they wanted to visit Limoux. It was a laid back day before they flew back to their hectic lives in London. Being Monday, many shops are closed. That is fairly common here in France. Unfortunately, that will mean another trip to Limoux for the spectacular cheese shop there…

The day started out a bit grey but the clouds finally moved on and by lunch we were enjoying the sunshine.

But first a stop in one of many wine shops. While a variety of wines are available the specialty of Limoux is something called Blanquette.

Blanquette de Limoux The Original Sparkling Wine

Blanquette de Limoux was the first sparkling wine which dates back to 1531. At the Benedictine abbey, Saint-Hilaire near Limoux the monks were producing an usual white wine in a unique fashion. The wine was being fermented in flasks of glass with a cork top instead of the traditional oak vats. This resulted in a natural sparkle in the wine.  Blanquette is made exclusively from Chardonnay and Mauzac grape varieties which give it that dry,creamy and full-bodied wine with a clean taste, a long full finish and fruity aromas.

It seems a young monk named Dom Pérignon stayed at Saint-Hilaire long enough to learn the process as he headed north from Spain. Later, upon arrival in the Champagne region, he passes the technique off as his own.

Despite legends to the contrary, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine. However, he was able to make valuable contributions to the quality and production of Champagne wine.

Having enjoyed both Blanquette and Champagne on a number of occasions, it is Blanquette that I buy, have on hand and serve to friends and visitors. It is Blanquette that I provide for celebrations. Like many things, it is a personal choice. However the taste of Blanquette is un-equaled.  If you can find it where you are, I highly recommend you give it a try. If not, you might consider coming to the south of France.

Limoux is one of the few places where I have seen Blanquette available by the glass at a restaurant, bar or café.  À votre santé!

Bisous,

Léa

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While Yvonne and I won’t pass up a chance for a glass of Blanquette here in Limoux, Pauline prefers to stick with the red wine… Actually, you cannot lose either way!                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The église
The église is just off the square                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notre-Dame de Marceille                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The gentleman in this wine shop on the square will be happy to tell you all about Blanquette and other wines of the region as well as delight your palate with his wares.

 

Un Repas de Village

Apéritif

While there is something to do year around, July and August is packed with events. Even though there are hoards of tourists, village life continues much unchanged. An example is the meal I attended with friends in the lovely village of Embres – Castlemaure.

The event begins with the apéritif.  There are two tables with bottles of water, juices, wine  (of course) and even boxed wine. Being Embres – Castelmaure we were treated to the wine produced there. I would confidently argue that it is some of the finest in the region and beyond. There are also trays of bite-sized treats such as olives, pizza or quiche. The baskets on these tables hold mounds of another local favorite, Courgette Beignets. A small donut/fritter with bits of grated courgette (zucchini) that is fried golden brown. Unfortunately, they are so popular and despite the vast amounts, they were gone before I could get a photo. However, if you would like to try them for yourself, here is the recipe I use when called upon to help with food for an event.

Courgette Beignets

1 pound (about 2 medium) courgettes

1 teaspoon salt

* 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

10 sprigs parsley finely chopped

* 1 medium-large clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup flour

Grate courgettes into a medium bowl then press out as much of the moisture as possible. The easiest way I have found is to put the grated courgettes into a clean dish-towel and wring it until you get no more liquid. Transfer back into the bowl and add salt, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, pepper and eggs. Mix well to combine. Slowly add flour stirring so no lumps form.

Heat 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil in a large saute pan over medium – high heat until oil sizzles when you drop in a small amount of courgette mix onto the pan and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and turn beignets cook until golden. Bon appétit!

Note: Ingredients two marked with the * are ones I added. However, the recipes given me for the first batch I was asked to make were all different and there has been slight variations with the ones I have sampled. Each cook likes to add their own special touch. You can delete the garlic and/or lemon zest as you choose.

Paella simmering away

I choose to include the beignet recipe as Paella is a traditional Spanish dish. Yet being so close to Spain, it is very popular here in the south of France. While the Paella was simmering away everyone circulated greeting friends and making new ones. Although it was a village event and I live nearby, I was made most welcome as were the others who do not live in the village. There was a small band made up of musicians from surrounding villages. They played until the meal began.

Each table had several pitchers of wine (Rosé and Rouge), Bottles of water, Baguettes and more was supplied as needed. When the Paella was ready we took our seats and the feasting began. After the main course plates of Brie were passed around quickly followed by wonderfully ripe nectarines and peaches. Eventually we moved on to ice creams. Like all french meals, coffee was served after dessert.  A good time was had by all.

When you visit France, remember even the smallest villages have much to offer. Embres – Castelmaure . The last census in 2008 recorded the population at 150 people. I highly recommend a visit and a visit to the area demands that you check out their wines. You will not be disappointed.

Bisous,

Léa