You meet some wonderful people doing this job!
I think wine, food and France attracts the best in human nature and over the last 6 weeks I have been accompanied on many tours by some very special people. Together we have visited some of the finest wineries in the Languedoc region where I have arranged a special back-stage tour and included my own personal style tutored tasting. Learning to taste wine really opens up the world of flavours and expands our enjoyment hugely but I know when I was asked 10 years ago if I wanted to learn to taste wine I looked very sceptical. I had been drinking wine for years, what could someone possibly teach me? But I was wrong and now that I have these fabulous skills my enjoyment of wine has increased enormously.As well as visiting wineries on my tours we also visit beautiful places such as the villages of Minerve or Lagrasse and the so called ‘Cathar Castles’ of Queribus and Peyreperteuse. We also taste other produce such as olive oil and chèvre and sometimes honey. The Languedoc has such a wealth of flavours! During August and September the weather has been so superb that we have been lucky enough to enjoy some picnics amongst the vines and with the help of local knowledge I have found some lovely off the beaten track places for us to enjoy them and as many of my clients have said ‘we would never have found this on our own!’
As I write the harvest is well underway in the Minervois and other parts of the region however they are still to start in some places. It’s great fun taking people to vineyards at this time of year as they are able to taste the grapes on the vine and decide for themselves if it’s ready to be picked. The wine maker is looking for a balance of sugar and acid and if its reds he is also looking for skin and pip ripeness which will ensure the tannins are tasty and not stalky.
On my tours I regularly visit Domaine Gayda as it was at this vineyard that I first helped out making wine. In 2007 Tim and Barbara Ford invited me to stay with them for a short while so that I could get some experience working in a winery during the harvest. Most days I accompanied Vincent the wine maker when he visited his vines which are located in various parts of the region. It was during this time that I observed just how important the decision of when to pick is. Once it’s picked there is no going back and it’s possibly the biggest decision a wine maker will make all year.
During my winery tour at Domaine Gayda I like to regale people with stories of my experience during the time I worked in the winery. Such as when I learnt how to take the temperatures and density readings of the tanks which had to be recorded daily so that Vincent could see how slowly or quickly the ferments were progressing. I always liken it to doctors and nurses – we the nurses record the patients obs and the doctor (Vincent) decides on the treatment!
But the best part of my Gayda experience was relaxing at the end of the day with a glass of my favourite Gayda wine – the Freestyle Blanc, a wonderful blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Macabeo and Rousanne. Absolutely delicious.