I went along for the ride yesterday to Laurens, north west of Pezenas, south of Bedarieux (although not many of you will have heard of that 'end of the world' place). We were on a strict mission to taste wine for Rare & Organic. We consulted ViaMichelin and took the most economical route, which was a mistake, not because it wasn't economical but because the suspension on the car was so hard that I felt every last disturbance on the surface of the road, and by golly there are a lot on 'E' roads.
We should have taken my incredibly comfy Peug which is designed for just such minor routes. I was thus feeling a tad queasy when we arrived, although the journey, lasting just over an hour was lovely. The poppies are out at the moment and were glowing in the sunshine. We have just had 4 days of rain so everything was looking lush and fresh, with water flowing healthily in the river beds. Villages looked clean and there were people visible even in the sleepiest places. We passed the amazing Chateau-Abbaye de Cassan which is one of the most impressive classical abbeys in France and dates back to the 12th century.
We reached Laurens, a small but expanding village, just before midday. We had thought that the tasting would probably last a bit less than an hour after which we would leave our hosts to their lunch and go off to sniff out a country auberge. Well, it didn't happen quite like that...
Véronique Vaquer-Bergan welcomed us into the garden of her recently acquired demeure-sized pile of 'work in progress'. I'm sure it'll look lovely when it's finished, but it's looking rather a long way from any degree of what you might call 'finished' and they are moving in very soon... I wish her luck with that!
Véronique, and her neighbour and colleague Laurent Gomez have separate organic vineyards but they work together commercially often promoting their wine together and helping each other out. A table was thus laid out with an encouraging array of bottles, bread, cheese and roof tiles which were serving as an original plateau for saucisson.
Véronique used to own a bar in Béziers which had 129 different wines to taste. It was apparently a very well-known hot-spot for wine buffs and clients came from as far as Montpellier for a good evening out. She told us that although she loved the bar, she is not commercially-minded enough, and would not make her friends pay for food and drink. Eventually she recognised that the bar was not making money, and wanted to try her hand at wine making so she bought the Domaine La Borie Fouisseau. She and Laurent make organic wine; she works 7 hectares, he 15. Laurent used to be a history teacher in a sink school in Beziers. He is passionate about history, but not about providing what amounted to childcare to feral kids, so he got out, bought a vineyard and is happy doing his own thing.
We had a truly marvellous afternoon. As I said, our initial idea had been to taste and leave the good folks to their lunch, but the time flew by as we tasted, chatted, learned, shared and amused that it was 4pm before we knew it, and time to get back to pick up the boys from the station. The wine was delicious, each year different, with varying quantities of cépage varieties. Véronique loves experimenting and is able to do this as she is not solely dependent on the vineyard for the family income. This freedom can be felt in her approach and the way the wines are vinified.
We had to leave before the planned visit to the vineyard, but Véronique and Laurent invited us back, to visit with the boys, and share a grillade with them. Such conviviality, sincerity and humour are what one always hopes to encounter in people. Véronique and Laurent had us totally charmed. We hope that we can encourage their businesses through Rare & Organic, and to see them again en famille.
La vie est belle!