Hardly a weekend goes by when there isn’t a festival in town that features locally grown and/or produced food products. Local artisans are proud of the work they do and the Mediterranean climate generally cooperates to provide bumper crops as it has done in this area for over 2000 years. We don’t have to wait for a fête, however, since we can just walk to the Saturday market and find everything we want, either just picked or freshly prepared. Olives were cultivated by the Greeks and then the Romans when they settled here and since the trees can survive for centuries there is still an abundance of the oils, tapenades, and even beauty products made from this durable plant. Sometimes it’s fun to travel outside of the city to the source of everything we see on display at the market and that’s exactly what we did last week when Sally and Larry suggested that we all pile into their car for “Last Chance Wine Tasting of 2019”.
Despite the title of our driving tour last week, our first stop had nothing to do with wine. It’s in the village of Fontjoncouse where apiary owner Pascal’s passion for honey and the insects that make it has been going strong for 40 years. Cities across the country have installed hives on rooftops, including Notre Dame in Paris, and limited pesticide use to help stabilize the bee population and the Miellerie de Fontjoncouse is part of that effort. The flavors we saw on their shelves included wildflowers—spring or summer, chestnut, and very aromatic rosemary. I could change that sentence to “the flavors we see on our shelves,” since once we’d had a taste we had to bring home a jar of each.
In this part of France you are never far from a winery so within 2 minutes we were at Domaine des Deux Clés that their website says is “accessible only by small windy roads, traversing through scrub and rocky valleys”. Sounds ideal for their century-old indiginous vines that are tended with organic methods (great for those neighboring bees), harvested manually, and turned into full-bodied Corbières wines, our favorites. Those sinuous driving directions were spot-on and since it was then lunchtime we had a look just down the street from there at L’Auberge du Vieux Puits where chef Gilles Goujon operates his 3 Michelin starred restaurant. With the fixed-price lunch menu starting at 125€ without wine, we chose to drive on to Le P’tit Gourmand in Villeneuve-les-Corbières where the 18€ 3-course meal and 8€ liter of red wine made around the corner from the restaurant left us that much more in our wallets to spend at our last stop of the day.
In 1863 a wine blight spread by aphids devastated the industry destroying at least half of the vines growing here so it’s somehow comforting to find wineries where their plants survived and are still producing today. Owner Katie Jones at Domaine Jones enjoys locating these “forgotten vineyards” that don’t interest others because the sites are too small and/or remote to be easily profitable. In fact, she says, “I’m looking for low yields with high quality” and the limited number of bottles that she produces each year reflects that philosophy. Among those traditional grape varieties is Hairy (because of its leaves) Grenache that makes a good red, despite its funny name.
So that may have been our last chance wine tasting tour for 2019 by car, but we can always wander down to the market next Saturday to see what’s being featured there.
Winery Domaine de Deux Clés: http://fr.domaine-des-deux-cles.com/
Winery Domaine Jones: https://domainejones.com/