Last year during the lockdowns when we were supposed to stay home or at least not venture far away, it was easy to get that “boxed in” feeling. Luckily our house has a courtyard where we could be outdoors whenever we wanted and right in our own neighborhood there are shops of all kinds so getting in supplies wasn’t much of a problem. One of our favorite wine stores, however, is more than the 1 kilometer distance that we were asked to stay within and while we could go further for any “essential” purchases (yes, this is France so wine fell into that category) we didn’t want to push our luck. An email from that very store changed everything. While at the time they were unable to have tastings they could offer free delivery so that you could enjoy tastings at home, and that’s exactly what we did. It not only enticed us to try a variety of different wines from the 700 winegrowers in their cooperative, but also their range of everyday wines in boxes.
Since moving to France 5 ½ years ago we’ve been to many small and big parties in people’s homes, catered events at galleries or exhibitions, and several official government gatherings where refreshments were available. At every one of these wine was served from boxes with some bottles there as well. When we lived in the US it seemed that a stigma was attached to any wine not served from a bottle and even then it had to have a cork and never a screw cap. That’s not what we’ve experienced here, especially since the exact same wine can often be found in both bottles and boxes, and that’s the case with the winery we went to visit last week.
Our friends Sally and Larry knew that there’s a particular red “vin rouge” that we buy on a regular basis and suggested a visit to the winery where they box that plus bottle a dozen others. It’s about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne to the Castelmaure winery in Embres-et-Castelmaure located in the Corbières area that we think produces our region’s best full-bodied wines that rival anything we’ve tasted from Bordeaux or Burgundy. In an atlas, I counted twelve communities that include the word “Corbières” in their town name which tells me they too want to be associated with products from here, so apparently Bill and I are not alone.
Skeletal remains found only 30 kilometers (19 miles) from where we were tasting wine show that humans have lived in the vicinity for at least 450,000 years. As in much of the rest of France that borders on the Mediterranean Sea, the climate was ideal for the Greeks and Romans to establish colonies based on growing olives and grapes, a practice that we obviously still enjoy today.
On day trips like these, Sally always finds a nearby restaurant where we can benefit from the local food and drink. For lunch we stopped in the town of Durban-Corbières (there’s that word again) that boasts a ruined castle that was first mentioned in a document dated in 1018 for the lords of Durban. The last family descendant living there died in 1787 after which it was slowly dismantled with the stones being used elsewhere in the town. From there we headed home with the trunk full of bottles and boxes and far from feeling “boxed in”.
Castelmaure wines https://www.castelmaure.com/
Restaurant Chez Prano https://chez-prano.com/