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

Posted by in All, France

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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Wine in a (peli)can

Last week was the London International Wine Fair and what a fair! I love going to this event. Checking out all the new products, finding new wines, revisting old favorites, talking to producers  or just admiring the sleek bottles, artfully arranged, sparkling under the Excel Center lights. Walking into that place, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the kids are let loose in the candy garden? I know exactly how those kids felt.  I didn’t know where to turn or which stand to go to first. It really can be a bit heart-stopping. First stop was a Friui tasting seminar that I’d signed up for earlier in the week. Lately I’ve been really interested in  Italian wines so I thought this would be an interesting seminar. It would have been if the speaker didn’t insist on speaking in a heavily accented dry monotone. The Friulis, from Northern Italy were mostly light and fruity with a striking tone of  minerality that I really enjoyed running thru all the samples we tasted. The most interesting thing that I came across from the show was the new brand Wild Pelican, wine in a can. According to their website, …”Our aim was to differentiate from the wine in cans already on the market…by taking a consumer perspective…creating a brand that allows (them) to explore some of the best wines…” in the world. So far, so good. What’s differentiates this brand from others, is that the wines are still, not sparkling. Caroline, the rep, gave me a couple of cans to take home and try. I have to admit, it’s a bit unsettling to pop open a can of wine but once it’s poured into the glass, you’d never know the difference. These are very well made wines. The first was a chenin blanc from S. Africa. Now, you know I’m not a big fan of S. African wines but this one was clean and...

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Ch. du L’engarran Rose

One of my colleagues, Tom from Fulham, decided to organize a day out in Hyde Park for all off us slogging away in the London shops. Somebody brought a football and an American football but really I was just there for the wine. Even though the sun is still playing hide and seek with us, Wed. was a brilliantly sunny day and the Ch. du L’Engarran rose that I brought was perfect for  a day out in the park. I really like these guys, or rather ladies. The Chateau is run by a feisty Frenchwoman, Francine and her two daughters. The Chateau has been seriously producing wine under Francine since the 60’s  but since it is an AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, it’s not as well known as it could be. So on to the rose. I  used to be one of those wine snobs who wouldn’t touch rose but now that I’ve discovered dry rose, I’m all for it, esp. the ones from Southern France. This particular one is a blend of granache and cinsault,  a pale, peachy salmon color which looks so inviting in the bottle and even more so in the glass. It’s a dry, fruity glugger. I got raspberry, cherry and strawberry on the nose, following thru  with more of the same on the palate. This was a nicely balanced rose, refreshing and tasty and at the same time finishing off with a bit of a citrusy zing. We all agreed that it was a perfect summer wine, with or without food. I think if I’d had a tuna nicoise to go along with it, the day would have been perfect. Next week is the International London Wine Fair. I can’t wait! Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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