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The Local Winery’s Open House

July 12th, 2017 · No Comments · France, Travel

This is the sort of thing that boggles the minds of Californians. Well, actually, just about anyone from America, the land of mediocre $30 bottles of wine, as well as tasting sessions that offer five tiny pours for $15-to-$25.

Imagine a local winery that lets visitors taste as many as seven wines.

Less than a mile from where you live.

At no charge.

That is just how they roll, in the Languedoc, part of a region that produces one-third of all French wine and is the global epicenter of good but inexpensive vin.

We took advantage of the open house at a winery that carries our town’s name, even though its sales office is in one hamlet over.

Things went off there pretty much as they would anywhere in this area.

A “happy to see you” bonjour, an invitation to take a seat at a shaded picnic table out front, and how many wines would we like to taste?

Turns out, we were interested in seven — and the woman did not blanche.

None of the seven were in the “economy” price range: A rose, two whites and four reds, and two of the reds were from the winery’s “reserve” label and were of 2009 and 2013 vintages.

A woman who works for the winery came out and sat with us, describing what we were drinking and its qualities and history, and pouring tastes for both of us.

We liked this one, liked another better, another a bit less, and the “reserve” labels quite a bit.

The table was equipped with a bucket for pouring out the wine we didn’t actually drink and, being perhaps spoiled by this sort of thing, we did not drink the entirety of everything offered to us.

The visit was meant to be a multi-stop event.

Just outside the stone doors of the winery was a horse that pulled a cart visitors could sit in while touring some of the fields.

And in a corner of the courtyard of the winery was a food truck that specialized in burgers (8 euros for a monster burger, including fries) but also produced croque monsieurs, of which I am a big fan, for 4 euros.

In theory, we could have walked back to our town having spent 12 euros on lunch after having tasted seven wines and ridden in the horse-drawn cart.

And this happens everywhere in this part of France. Within a few miles of anywhere can be found a half dozen wineries, and nearly every one will offer visitors a chance to taste during open hours or even by appointment.

And at some time during the spring or summer, the vintner is likely to have an open house that will be more like a wine-drinker’s day at Disneyland.

Since we were there, and we liked several of their wines, and to support our local vintner, we bought 12 bottles — a transaction that might require a call to a banker, in California, but in this instance totaled 100 euros — about $114.

All 12 bottles were from the higher half of their price list, including three bottles of the dark and rich 2009 reserve (made from Mourvedre, Grenache and Carignan), at $13 per bottle, which we will plan to drink on chilly nights with company sometime next winter.

How much would 12 bottles of anything decent cost in California?

A lot more than what we paid, which was about $8 per bottle, on average.

This sort of thing goes on everywhere in the Languedoc. Good local-local French wine, astonishingly cheap, by U.S. or British standards, available minutes away from wherever you are staying, sold by people who are knowledgeable and are happy to speak with you.

And if your English is shaky, they will find you the staff’s anglophone, who will treat you like anyone else. Well, pretty much. We got a 10 percent discount for being from the neighborhood.

But still.

So … if you are a wine fan but balk at the prices attached to even mid-range wines, in the U.S., plan a vacation in the south of France.

You will be in a sort of heaven of wine options and choices among good, better and best.

The downside, of course, will be returning to the states and resume paying astonishing amounts — by French standards — for something that may not be all that good.



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