One of my favourite red wines and one of the few well known French wines in these days where new world labels are taking hold in the UK. On discovering we were staying less than an hour away we were determined to find a free afternoon for a visit. Leaving all the children back home with our cousins apart from Ally, who at 17 decided he was up for a spot of wine education, we headed off in the heat of the afternoon.
Our first impressions were how small the town was. For a wine label so larger than life this little French town before us didn’t seem to do it justice. Parking up we had a wonder round the delightful streets and popped our heads into the “caves” where all the local sellers were offering free tasting in the hope of you purchasing a bottle or two and pretty street cafes gave a chance to watch the world pass by over a leisurely drink or ice cream.
We had been tipped off by our cousins that Chateau Fortia was a lovely big vineyard to visit with a classic old chateau. Having no idea of direction from the town centre we popped into the information centre. The helpful staff said we should be able to have a tour and tasting up there with no appointment and so encouraged we set off. Driving up the vineyard path we had the distinct impression we were coming in the trade entrance, it was hard going on our poor bus and looked as though no one was home. I hopped out and opened a few doors at what looked like the main reception and was met by the owner, he seemed to think it was all possible and so Nick and Ally tentatively followed me inside. Here we were given a taste of his 4 wines as he explained the differences and the prices.
It is only when comparing wines like this that my unsophisticated pallet can really identify a difference, and even then the more I taste the more similar I think they become! The prices were a little mind blowing so we settled for a Magnum of a cheaper one to put down for a special occasion party back home.
I then felt rather cheated when he explained he was on his own today that the family had the day off and couldn’t show us a round. We were welcome to have a little wonder round the grounds ourselves though and I sampled the grapes on the vine as they were due to be picked the following week.
The chateau itself had the feel of somewhere they were struggling to keep up and I suspected it would be very bare inside.
Old tractors and a few tents did make me wonder if this is where the grape pickers were supposed to live! According to French law they are not allowed to machine pick the grapes and put the Chateauneuf du Pape label on the wine, this combined with very high minimum wages in France and strict working hours felt like it was hampering their business, tourism in the little town centre looked the more profitable sector and I felt strangely pleased we had bought the big bottle after all.
I hope my suspicions were wrong, France has such a history of wine and it is wonderful to see the vineyards all over the countryside, but I have a feeling French law needs to move on to allow machine picking for all vineyards and grape varieties to be used on the bottle labels for at least the lesser known regions for the industry not to lose its way here.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.