"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know."
~ John Keats ~
How very astute of Mr Keats in his observations!
The grapes in the above photos are of the Syrah variety and together with Mourvedre they form the principal varieties of the red wine of the Minervois. Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut also make their contribution to these rich ancient wines - and such beautiful names! And there are more - Bourboulenc, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenach Blanc, these evocative sounding grapes go towards making up the Region's white wine. In addition to dry red and white wines, the area has a historical sweet-wine-making tradition. Minervois Noble, as it is known, does not have a current appellation. It is a golden sweet wine made from the same white grapes as its dry counterparts. The grapes are picked when they have reached a high level of sweetness – either as a result of noble rot or by being dried out manually after picking. Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois, a delicate vin doux naturel, is produced in the north of the Minervois.
Home from home during our French sojourn was a small peaceful village nestled among acres of vineyards with the local cave just a gentle stroll away! We had chosen well. The wine we purchased at the cave had provenance, of course, was of superior quality and excellent value. We also bought some delicious lavender honey which we enjoyed with our freshly baked croissants each morning. I am now on a diet ....
Here in the photo below, in a tiny winding street in the city of Minerve we came across a farmer offloading his latest harvest at a small family-run distillery. Keeping vineyards and producing wine is the essence of Midi life, informing the landcape; the terroir, and this essence seems to me to be in the very DNA of its people.
But what of the 'rescue' you may wonder?
Well, the rescue I allude to in the title to this post regards a vineyard much closer to home. In fact its a vineyard set up and run by my friend Jillian and her husband on a beautiful south-facing slope in the grounds of Ickworth House, a National Trust property here in Suffolk. In the 18th century the site had formed part of the estate's walled kichen garden and had a team of over a dozen gardeners tending the 2.5 acre plot, growing exotic fruit such as melons and pineapples in its three large greenhouses. Jillian and her husband took on the plot in 1995 when it was given over to the cultivation of vines and they have had considerable success in producing some very fine English wine. Sadly for the vineyard, the National Trust are planning a major restoration of the Walled Garden at Ickworth, and the vineyard has to go. Jillian is now working tirelessly to rehome the vines, so if you think you can help and have the space and conditions for a vine or two to flourish, then please get in touch with Jillian at her blog here or website here.
Until next time ...
Happy weekend dear readers. Cheers!