Autumn is a fabulous time in Provence but not the time we have visitors to share it with. September can still be warm enough to swim outdoors and then we have been snowed in during November. For a sunny climate and gorgeous colour I would choose October.
In mid October the local wine growers organise a Wine Rally.Only in France could you have the chance of unlimited alcohol consumption ,while driving during the recent fuel shortage.
It was not a promising start we could not see the car , or mountain ,let alone the vines for an early morning mist.
Our team mates were not deterred and the four of us registered at Rousset for the start of the rally. We were equipped with wristbands , clues, questions, a map, wine glasses and a breathalyzer.
The Salle de Fetes was full of contestants drinking coffee and enjoying warm croissants and pain chocolat.It was obviously not a good idea to start our quest on an empty stomach.
Our first clue was given in a Soduko style puzzle and we had the letters to form the name of the first Domaine.Here we were given a warm welcome, an informative tour and our first wine tasting.
Helene Dragon and Frederic Arnaud had cleverly matched their wine to a range of cheeses and their homemade jams and chutney.
We could not resist the white wine which seems to go well with curry, the cherry and pepper jam for Conte cheese and the Port like delice de Luce to drink with Roquefort or Stilton.
INTERESTING FACT FROM JACOURETTE (and answer to one of our questions) This Domaine was is a favourite of THE Paul Mc Cartney who requested it in a Montreal restaurant.
A crossword gave us the name of our second destination out on the N7.
Sadly the owner, Jose Garcia had never been a member of The Grateful Dead nor made ice cream but gave us an enthusiastic tour of the cave and fed us savouries to soak up his wine.
I would just like to point out that as the designated driver I did not participate in the wine tasting quite as liberally as my team mates.They seemed to find a little alcohol liberated any inhibitions about asking help with our questions but sometimes made them a little too liberal about sharing the answers. Hey-ho it was great fun!
I would like to add that the early morning mist cleared quickly and we were enjoying clear blue skies and Autumn sunshine.
The grape harvest was late this year but we didn’t have the losses of last summer.
Last August a freak hail storm destroyed many of the grapes and left some of the mountain domains running short.
This year promises to be a good one.
BACK TO THE RALLY.
We had to break a code to find the third clue, this time at Trets.
The entrance to the Cellier was hosting a photographic exhibition but often shows the works of local artists.
Here we saw wine production on the large scale.
Huge vats, enormous pipes and possibly the biggest wine bag.
It was now definitely lunch time.Three local restaurants had organised special RALLY MENUS for the day.
We know all three restaurants and they are very good but we wanted to try something different so we headed off back along the N7 towards St Maximin
We always though this American style diner looked interesting and today for the first time we felt brave enough to try it.
The decor inside was impressive.
We had a very un -French lunch of burgers ,fries,ribs and chilli, to the background of Country music….. all a little surreal.There are live Country and Blues concerts here most weekends.
We could see our Line Dancing friends would love it. (American Line dancing , complete with boots and cowboy hats is very popular in France).
Our puzzle gave us the word DIABLE and we knew to head north as this is found on the label at St Lucie, Puyloubier.
INTERESTING FACT….. the recent photo-electric installation near Puyloubier, was held up for six weeks when a rare and protected spotted lizard was found in the quarry.Its enviroment is now re-established and preserved.
St Lucie is found high up on the mountain road just next door to St Ser.Both are prize-winning domains. The latter for its crisp whites and St Lucie for its palest of Rose.
This is a family enterprise. The younger members enthusiastically embracing modern technology and jazzy marketing.
The grape juice is extracted using a bag inflated inside a stainless steel drum which crushes the grapes against the sides… no feet involved.
New and shiny vats were chilled to below freezing with icy bands to aid the settling of the juice and clarify the wine colour
A modern bottle shape with clear funky labels make sure these bottles stand out on the shelf
The wine, however stands on its own quality. The rose was sold out by last July . It won top prizes for the palest Rose and best taste.
We decided to take six of the pretty black and bronze labeled red for Christmas presents but not sadly the 29 euro bottles which were delicious.
With a last look at the views we headed home for a cup of tea and some final clue solving. We discovered that Peynier was famous in the 18th century for its soap making. We found the location in Trets of its old Synagogue, but the calculation of the total hectares under cultivation for grapes in the designated St Victoire area eluded us. It was easy to find the hectares under the AOC but the rest …
By 5-00pm we needed to make a guess and hand back our answers in Rousset.
Each wrist band handed in was awarded a bottle of local wine so in a way everyone won.Each circuit and there were five, had an overall winner who got 18 bottles of wine and various prizes from the sponsors. Second prize 12 bottles and third 6 bottles. After the prize ceremony , caterers provided a buffet with of course more wine. So where are the photos of the winners?
Well I have to confess to leaving my camera behind , a genuine oversight and nothing to do with sour grapes since we didn’t win !