My DB and I decided to participate this year. The weather was promising and it would be a good opportunity to get out and do something interesting, and taste some wine. Muggins here would be driving, so tasting would be minimal, but at least I'd get a nice lunch on my own terms.
I decided to make a tomato puff pastry tart. Very simple, just take a block of puff pastry, cut in half and roll out, thinly slice some tasty tomatoes, place in thin layer on pastry (swipe some mustard on pastry beforehand if you like), sprinkle over basil, S&P etc. and chuck in oven until cooked. Foolproof, normally. Unless you inadvertently buy some gluten-free frozen puff pastry. Pastry it was, puff it had not. I decided to taste it later.
|Does this look like puff pastry to you?|
I picked up my DB and we set off to Domaine Virgile Joly, chosen because one of my friends does the communication for them and I was curious to taste their wine. This is also the domaine that stars in the book Virgile's Vineyard by Patrick Moon.
We arrived just after midday, was told we'd missed the visit of the vineyard which apparently had been scheduled for 10am (!) but in fact took place at 11.30am (glad we didn't turn up for 10!), but that we could taste the wine. The village of Saint-Saturnin-de-Lucian is a typical Languedoc village, with cream stone buildings, an old church, narrow streets and a central place. Virgile's cave was on the place at the end of a tree-lined esplanade, and there was a busy restaurant opposite.
|Place, Saint-Saturnin-de-Lucian, Domaine Joly back left|
|Domaine Virgile Joly|
Having finished the tasting, we waited. And waited. Some more people turned up - two couples with kids, friends of Virgile and his Polish wife, Magda, and they started tasting. Then Christopher and his partner turned up. Where were the people from the visit? I was expecting about 40 people to be there as the website said they had room for sixty.
In the end it was just us ten adults and about six kids. My DB and I were the only 'strangers'. Eventually they packed away the tasting equipment which was outside, and we got into our cars and followed the leader to the Rochers des Vierges. At a car-park halfway up, we put our cool-boxes into Virgile's minivan and started walking up to the picnic spot while he drove up the track.
It was 2pm by the time we sat down at the picnic tables, opened our cool-boxes and poured some rosé. The one large double table was occupied by a family, so we had to take two single tables on opposite sides of the shady clearing. The unpuffed pastry was pretty unpleasant, so I chucked it and just ate baguette, cheese (Beaufort), onion, tomato and peas. They were all very tasty. We had an entertaining time on our table talking to Christopher, his glamorous partner, and the girl who does the marketing for Virgile.
|Shady picnic spot|
Once there though, the picnic spot was lovely - shady, and with stunning views. After lunch, we walked the 100m or so to the top and admired the 360° panorama which shimmered hazily in the sun. There's a very basic refuge up at the top containing nothing but two rooms, dirty floors and holes in the roof. You'd have to be a pretty desperate Compostella to think of sleeping there, especially as you'd have to go equipped with a stiff broom and be prepared to walk the 3km to the top!
|Two-room refuge with filthy floors|
|Abandoned medieval chapel|
|View of D5V vines|
|View towards Saint-Saturnin (foreground) and Jonquières at end of straight road|
|Looking towards Lac de Salagou|
As a marketing operation, the picnic had a fatal flaw because we were so late getting down that we just went straight home. We didn't go back to the domaine and we didn't therefore buy any wine although we had been tempted by the special offer on the rosé and the Cartagène apero wine.
It was a shame that participation in the picnic was limited to buddies, colleagues and us. I wonder how other domaines fared. I found out about it in the Hérault magazine, but didn't see any other publicity except for a bit on Facebook.
1. Got out instead of sitting about at home.
2. Got to taste Virgile's wine
3. Visited a lovely local site
4. Met some new people
5. Got some exercise
1. Waiting about
2. Late lunch
3. Organisational error: not being able to come and go once on the picnic
4. Walk too hard on delicate foot tendons
We would do it again, and visit a vineyard in the Montpeyroux appellation as we like their spicy full-bodied reds.