Growing up, I wanted to be a microbiologist until I got to college and found out that in addition to biology you had to also be good at chemistry. Bill’s a wiz at that but I still can’t tell the difference between emulsify, liquefy, and puree—unless those are blender settings, of course. That explains why, when I only caught snippets of the conversation between him and our friend Sally regarding something about oil and wine, I didn’t pay close attention. It was only when I saw them get out their calendars to schedule a day trip that I understood that we would be visiting an olive grove and a winery. Naturally there would have to be time for lunch, so let’s go!
Olive trees have been cultivated in this part of the south of France for at least 2000 years when the Romans took the hint from the Phoenicians who had been growing this versatile plant elsewhere in the Mediterranean area for perhaps 1000 years before that. I knew that they could live a long time but it was astounding to read that 30 minutes from home we could see examples of trees that had been planted when the calendar was changing from BC to AD. Grove owners in the area around the hamlet of Cabezac have formed a cooperative that not only processes their olives collectively but also informs the public with a museum and an extensive tour plus provides a retail outlet for all of their products. We were there just to pick up some oil but got tempted by the variety of olives and tapendes and managed to escape without any of their cosmetics, honey, and jam.
A short drive from there is where, in 1827, remains were found of human habitation 40,000 years ago in caves that had a warm water spring. When the Romans arrived they set up camp about a mile (2 km) away to be close to the river and more fertile land in the village of Bize-Minervois where we stopped to walk around the village.
If a business has been around since 1605, they must be doing something right. For 17 generations the Fabre family has been producing wine that started with a single château in the Corbières and has grown to 5 châteaux with a variety of terroirs stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to just outside of Carcassonne in the foothills of the Black Mountain. The advantage of going to their location in Luc-sur-Orbieu was that we could try wines from all 5 of their wineries. Our favorite robust red wine, a Corbières-Boutenac Château La Voulte Gasparets (our blog post Secret Road Trip) comes from this area so we wanted to see how the Fabre’s wine from the same area compared. We were only able to taste some of their range of 22 so it looks like we’ll need to go back if we want to sample anymore before we buy.
Lunch was easy to find since Sally had made a reservation in the same small town as the winery at La Luciole. We typically order whatever the chef suggests as the menu of the day and we were pleased once again. We started with either cauliflower tabbouleh or goat’s cheese salad followed by stuffed chicken thighs or fish cakes and desserts included a sumptuous red fruit cocktail you see in the photo.
Since the trunk of the car was now jammed full of olive oil and wine, there was no place else to go but back home—except for those other 2 wineries, but that’s another story. After putting all of those bottles away, I got curious about how the ancient Romans used olive oil so an online search showed it as a cleaner, polisher, bath additive, skin moisturizer and to coat the stomach before an evening of wine drinking. Ah-ha! So you can mix oil and wine. Chemistry’s not so bad after all.
Oulibo olive cooperative: http://www.odyssea.eu/oulibo/
The village of Bize-Minervois: http://www.bizeminervois.fr/
Winemakers Famille Fabre: https://www.famillefabre.com/
Restaurant La Luciole: http://www.restaurantlaluciole.fr/