Summertime drinking…Mirabeau Roses

Jul 03, 15 Summertime drinking…Mirabeau Roses

Posted by in All, France

Now that the weather is cooperating, more or less, and giving us lots of nice and sunny days, I’ve been breaking out the rosé wines. I recently received a few samples of the Mirabeau rosés and loved them. Mirabeau have an interesting back story, actually, they have the one we all have about chucking everything in and moving to the south of France but they actually did it. In 2009 Stephen Cronk quit the rat race and upped sticks with his wife and three children, leaving the suburbs of southwest London for the foothills of Provence. I met Stephen recently at the Taste of London and he had no regrets about leaving the rat race. Stephen did loads of research finding the best vineyards in Provence before setting up shop. They brought an impressive international winemaking team together led by Jo Ahearne MW. It’s one of the most accomplished teams in their field and they employ the most current winemaking techniques from around the world, while concentrating on building lasting relationships with local growers. The result are award winning rosés, the Mirabeau Classic which has aromas and flavours of wild strawberry, raspberry and redcurrant , light and lively on the palate, it’s an absolute thirst quencher. Their premium rosé, the Mirabeau Pure has hints of grapefruit, cherry and orange blossom but is fuller and a wine with more depth. It’s a “gastronomic”wine as they say, meaning it would be a great companion at your lunch or dinner table. Mirabeau rosés are available in the UK at Waitrose and online. They’re also active Twitter users so follow them @mirabeauwine Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Assignan, an ‘exploded hotel’ in St. Chinian

Nov 12, 14 Assignan, an ‘exploded hotel’ in St. Chinian

Posted by in All, France

One of the stops we made while on my trip to St. Chinian was to the small village of Assignan. Like many provincial villages in France, Assignan had become almost a ghost town with just a few villagers left to keep the village going. That is, until Flemish couple Marc and Tine Verstraete stepped in and literally bought the village out to transform it into, in their words, an ‘exploded hotel’. At first I was a bit sceptical but after hearing the concept explained to me, I don’t know why more deserted provincial village don’t do this. The basic concept is to take a dying village and convert it into ‘hotel’ village.  The idea is you arrive, park your car and then live in the village. All the basics and more are provided for you. Marc and Tine have bought most of the deserted houses and buildings in the village and are busily converting them into gites, shops and restaurants. There also have plans to add swimming pools and other amenities so that there is no need to leave the village, unless you want to visit the local vineyards or Chateau Castigno. However, even that is covered with partnerships with local vintners as well as the Verstraaete’s own chateau, Chateau Castigno. During our visit to the newly opened wine bar and adjacent tapas bolthole, Le Petit Table, we met a few local winemakers and sampled the locally produced wines. The wine bar is tiny and rustic but there is a large square in front of it with very cute gigantic umbrellas to shade you from the Languedoc sun. The tapas bar is run by Tine’s son, Fons  de Muynck. Fon’s is also in charge of ‘Nomad Cooking’. Nomad Cooking takes place at the vineyards of Ch. Castigno and after our tour of the village, we headed to the chateau for lunch cooked by Fons. During lunch we tasted the wines of Chateau Castigno which included a delightful sparkling brut nature rose, although it’s not...

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Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Oct 29, 14 Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, France

I was recently invited to St. Chinian by their growers association to not only learn a bit more about the wines but also to discover the wine tourism that they have going on there. If you thought it was all vineyards and wine tastings only, there’s a lot more to explore.Saint Chinian is in the Languedoc region of southern France and has plenty of activities for families, couples or groups of friends. We arrived on a warm sunny day in Capestang and immediately checked into Les Carrasses, an old chateau that has been renovated into a shabby chic hotel. The hotel is one of a new wave of tourism that is coming to the Languedoc. It’s set overlooking vineyards and offers not only excursions but also first rate food and wine dinners in it’s relaxing restaurant or on a terrace overlooking the chateau pool. You can stay in the renovated chateau or in the converted stables, winery or barn that now house villas that  have plenty of room for families or groups of friends. An added advantage of the villas is that they have their own kitchens and many of them also come with their own private swimming pool. Les Carrasses is a good base from which to enjoy the region. As well as vineyards vists, the region has loads of outdoor activities. St. Chinian has the Canal du Midi that runs through it which means you can float leisurely down the canal and alongside the vineyards, stopping along the way to visit one of the many small towns that dot the canalside. The canal towpaths are also great for bicycling or strolling, providing shade from the southern French sun. While we were there we had plenty of opportunities to sample the local wines. We stopped in the town of Roquebrun and had a lovely lunch at Le Petit Nice, a cute little restaurant serving traditional French cuisine. I had escargot and and some very garlicky frogs leg for lunch. All of this overlooking...

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A visit to Vignobles Foncalieu in the Languedoc

Jun 26, 14 A visit to Vignobles Foncalieu in the Languedoc

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Doesn’t that pool look inviting? And that view! I was staying at Chateau Haut-Gleon for a few days visiting and learning all about the wines of Vignobles Foncalieu. Vignobles Foncalieu is the oldest co-op in the Languedoc. The co-op was founded in 1967 and today is producing well priced and good quality wines. While I was there, we had the opportunity to meet various producers and visit the vineyards to see how the co-op is not only keeping up with the times but leading the way in promoting single vineyard and premium wines from the Languedoc. The Languedoc has had a reputation for producing cheap and/or bulk wines. Foncalieu is looking to change that perception with their new range of international and indigenous variety wines as well as their premium range, Les Grands Vins. The co-op is composed of 1,200 committed and passionate wine growers (many of whom we had the chance to meet) and is the only co-op with vines in all the wine making departments of the Grand Sud region. They have over 5,100 hectares and offer a diverse style of wines. Vignobles Foncalieu has a relatively new line of wines, called Le Versant. Le Versant wines are made from specially selected vines with the best exposure, planted on the slopes of the Languedoc’s maritime terroirs near Carcassonne. The wine growers decided a few years ago that they wanted to create accessible and modern wines for consumers. They pooled their resources and knowledge and selected specific hillside plots. They range includes chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, pinot, grenache and marselan. The Le Versant 2013 pinot noir was recently chosen by Tim Atkin for the Languedoc Roussillon Sud de France Top 100. I bet you’re wondering about that pool? The Haut-Gleon chateau was bought by the co-op in 2012 to boost the image and visibility of Foncalieu with this flagship estate. The chateau is set amongst 36 hectares of vines within 260 hectares of garrigue and forest. The chateau is fully...

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2013 Chateau Leoube rose for the summer

Jun 25, 14 2013 Chateau Leoube rose for the summer

Posted by in All, France

I received this lovely rosé not long ago from Château Léoube and as it’s definitely rosé weather, this one is a charmer. I’ve had this rosé in the past and it seems to be getting better every year. Château Léoube is located in Provence and they make a classic Provençal rose. The domain has a variety of soils and is close to the sea. They grow grenache, cinsault, syrah mourvedre and cabernet sauvignon. The 2013 rosé is pale pink in colour and crystal clear, it has a very fresh nose of wild strawberries and red berries followed by a surprisingly fresh and fruity palate. This is a quality wine with depth of flavour and a long finish that I was not expecting from what is usually referred to as ‘light and lively’ wines. I really enjoyed this wine just sitting outside in my garden but it would also be good with grilled vegetables, BBQ chicken or even something a bit spicier. The 2013 Château Léoube rosé is available in the UK at Daylesford, Bibendum Wine and Goedhuis & Co. Suggested RRP £14.99 Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Charmed by the Dordogne River Valley

May 14, 14 Charmed by the Dordogne River Valley

Posted by in All, France, Travel

I recently came back from the Dordogne region of France. If you’re like me, the Dordogne rings a bell as one of the rivers of Bordeaux. But, it’s a lot more then that. The river may end in Bordeaux but it’s starts far inland and the history that courses along it’s riverbanks goes back to the Middle Ages and beyond. I wasn’t thinking about that as we landed in Brive. We were on the inaugural RyanAir flight from London to Brive and it was a bit of a bumpy landing. It seems it can be a bit windy in this part of France but  before we knew it, we were on the ground. Ryan Air now flies twice a week to Brive from Stansted Airport. Thankfully, our first stop of the afternoon was to the charming house of Denoix liqueurs. The Denoix family have been making the speciality of the region, liqueurs de noix, as well as a whole host of flavoured liqueurs since 1839. Not much has changed in the production of the liqueurs, we were shown the stone wheel that they still use to crush the walnuts as well as the copper pots that they use to infuse the liqueurs. The family use only all natural ingredients, including fennel, star anise, and orange peel amongst other ingredients. It was a lovely introduction to the region. Later that evening we dined at Chez Francis, local institution of a restaurant which is famous for the graffiti left on it’s walls by literery visitors. I loved the various drawings and scribblings that covered the walls and even the ceilings. Of course, I had to leave my mark 😉 The next day was full on sight seeing starting with the town of Turenne, which I insisted on pronouncing as Tureen, still can’t get my head around that. Turenne is a medieval town famous for being built at such a commanding height and also as one of France’s most beautiful villages. The castle atop the hill is...

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