The French have a flair for food and wine events, or indeed celebrations. In Bédarieux they have held an annual fête, for the last nine years, with local restaurants and wine growers, with a chance for each to show off what they do best. It takes place in a large square in the centre of the town, under the shade of the plane trees. Wine growers flank the edges of the square, each with a barrel; the chefs are in a large marquee on one side, and planks are spread across umpteen wine barrels in the centre, to act as tables, so that everyone finds space to perch their wine glass and dinner.
We arrived early to do a bit of tasting before the crowds descended. This was the chance to catch up with François Pottier’s wines from Domaine la Croix Ronde in La Tour-sur-Orb, in the Haute Vallée of the Orb. It was quite a while since I had been for a cellar visit.
I’ve always liked his Cuvée Jade Chardonnay. The 2007 is lovely and fresh with good acidity, and gives the impression of just a hint of oak, but Francois assured me that there was none.
In contrast 2004 Chardonnay Topaze, which has spent twelve months in wood, is rich and buttery, ripe and rounded with a note of maturity on the finish.
His 2007 rosé is a curious blend of Syrah and Chardonnay grapes. I am not sure about this. You are not allowed to blend red and white wine to make rosé, but you can blend the grapes. The colour was an orange pink and the palate had some body, but lacked acidity
2005 Cuvee Améthyste is a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon has been in wood, which you can taste on the palate, with some smokey oak, rounded fruit and a tannic backbone.
Simon, Catherine Roque’s enthusiastic young stagiaire at Domaine de Clovallon, just outside Bédarieux, was concentrating on the 2001 vintage, as that was the year of the very first Cuisines dans la rue. 2001 Aurièges in a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Petite Arvine, Petit Manseng , Roussanne and Clairette. It was quite delicious, with some peachy fruit, acidity and layers of texture and flavour. A real treat. And alongside that was the 2001 Pinot Noir. The colour was quite developed with vegetal notes of sous bois on the nose and the palate was now quite frail, with a tannic streak, but very intriguing. You would not expect a Pinot Noir of that age from the Midi to survive so well.
Château des Peyresgrandes in Roquessels was showing their Faugères Tradition, a blend of Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache Blanc; it was quite perfumed, in contrast to the Prestige, for which the Syrah had been in oak, so that the wine had more depth and concentration.
And the cooperative in Hérépian, le Cellier de Capimont, was showing a very pleasant, easy to drink Chardonnay, and a fresh rosé, with light acidity. Françoise Ollier from Domaine Ollier-Taillefer in Faugères was also there, but I had tasted her wines the previous day. Comments coming soon. And the same applies to Domaine de l’Arjolle in Pouzolles.
By this time the chefs were getting going. We found a space on a plank our dishes and went back for more Aurièges. The presentation of the food was fun, with dishes presented on small wooden planks or slates. And the flavours were delicious. The Auberge de l’Abbaye in Villemagne produced a papillotte of mackerel with some spring rice; the Château de Lunas offered a velouté of green asparagus with a brochette of prawns. La Forge in Bédarieux had made cannelloni stuffed with quail and herbs, and the Relais de Ceilhes provided a mouselline of smoked trout.
We decided that we would prefer to sit down for our cheese course, so we went home for St. Nectaire and more Faugères, and also missed the dessert from l'Auberge du Presbytère which was described as an Opera chocolate asperges.