It’s not very often that TC and I call in on perfect strangers and introduce ourselves, but perhaps we should do this more often. Today’s adventure starts with a recommendation from our friend Thierry back in Perth. Thierry owns and runs the fabulous Whisper Wine Bar in Fremantle’s Essex Street, a place close to our hearts as we spent many hours over a chilled glass of white, plotting and planning our “escape to France” before we came here.
What has that got to do with wineries here in the Languedoc? Well, Thierry told us that a young man who had worked for him a while back, was now back in France and working in a winery not far away from us and what’s more, the winemaker at this winery is also Australian. Not needing any further excuse than to say “hi” to a friend of a friend from Australia (and the chance to meet another Aussie living and working here), we set off as soon as we could.
Which of course was the very next day, why delay? On the bikes and off to Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian!
The ride through local wine country was lovely. Sunny and warm, we arrived having worked up a decent sweat. Just outside the winery is the 12th century prieuré – gorgeous!
Coming through the gates into such a pretty courtyard that I could have just sat and soaked it up all day. We were met in the cellar by a lovely lady who, on being told that we must say hello to Benoit, rushed off immediately to fetch him. After passing on the greetings from our mutual friend, we had a look around the cave (that’s just the name of the cellar door in France) and then started tasting some of the wines.
Well the wines were great (we managed to squeeze four bottles into our backpacks, despite also having our water bottles taking up space!) and had a wonderful chat with the winemaker, Karen Turner, who was so lovely and friendly that, despite these two strange Aussies turning up out of the blue (and in the middle of the harvesting season!) was kind enough to show us around a little and explain some of their wines and processes.
I LOVED the barrel cellar with its thick covering of cobwebs on the windows – deliberately left there to help keep flies at bay – and we were shown the nifty rack system they use for the barrels. Each one is on individual rollers in its rack, allowing the barrels to be rotated to stir the wine and also allowing single barrels to be removed easily – something quite impossible if barrels are all stacked against each other!
Unfortunatley, there was no vendage happening while we were there. Karen explained that they only harvest in the mornings so that the grapes are fresh and while they had been harvesting some of the white grapes, the reds simply weren’t ready yet so there was to be a break for a few days. A pity for us, as we would have loved to see the grapes being brought in, but this day it was not to be. We did get to see the original stone tanks still used by the winery for the resting and maceration of the red wine grapes.
Chatting with Karen, we discovered that she and her husband also have their own winery, Domain Turner Pageot, specialising in biodynamically produced wines in the Languedoc region. A little more snooping on my part revealed they are part of a group of wine producers called “The Outsiders”, describing themselves as:
“…a group of Languedoc-Roussillon wine producers. Working in the south of France, they are creating exciting wines which make full use of the region’s highly diverse soil types, climatic conditions and grape varieties.”
If you get the chance to try some of these wines, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and, even better, if you get the chance to call into the winery here just outside the beautiful town of Pezenas, you definitely won’t be disappointed!
Cheers and santé!
ps Yes, West Australians can taste some of these wines in Whisper’s… but shhhh…. I’ll be back there soon, leave some for me!!