During the Covid lockdowns when one of the few reasons we could leave the house was to make essential purchases, Bill discovered a way to easily take care of one of those required items. A wine store was offering free delivery. We prefer to try new wines before we buy them but that wasn’t an option in those restricted times so we had to create our own tasting events at home for just the two of us. While getting the bottles to our front door was simple enough, deciding which ones to choose was more of a challenge since the store stocks wines from 1250 vintners who cultivate 49 different grape varieties. France lifted its state of emergency surrounding Covid on August 1 so now with all events in full operation it was time to visit this Cave à Vin in person during an evening they called an “Afterwork”.
We see words every day that appear to be familiar but turn out to be not what we expect. At a hair salon you could ask for a brushing and they would blow dry your hair; if you’re shopping and you need a basket you’ll get tennis shoes while if you want a sweater you’ll need to ask for a pull. An afterwork wasn’t so hard to figure out given that it was held at a wine store from 6:00 PM to 10:30 PM with food available and music throughout the evening. Bill suggested reserving a table since these are summer-only events and once school starts, only two weeks from now, we’ll be back to a normal schedule.
Luckily for us the wine list (photo in first paragraph) at our table did not offer every bottle in their inventory but it did make me wonder about the store’s history and how there could be so many winemakers represented in one place. While sitting on the terrace and looking at the beautiful art nouveau building we remembered that it started as a distillery in 1885 producing a liqueur called La Micheline. This “elixir of youth” originated in the 4th century according to the recipe on a parchment that was unearthed in the 13th century in the nearby Medieval walled city. We even have a bottle of that since it’s still being produced in Carcassonne at the Cabanel distillery, a 10-minute walk from home.
The variety of wines available stems from this store, Le Comptoir de la Cité, being the retail outlet for the cooperative Les Vignobles Foncalieu and its 1250 member vintners. They organized in 1967 but the first wine cooperative in France appears to have been in Alsace in 1895 although technically that was part of Germany at the time. Cooperatives across France own about half the vineyards in this country and produce a corresponding amount of wine. Although Bill and I don’t work, I think that this afterwork could become part of our regular routine. That would make it convenient to go there to taste the wine and then have it delivered, which I’m happy to say is still free!