Wendy Gednes runs a wine tasting /touring company called Vin en Vacances, http://www.vinenvacances.com/ and I was lucky enough to go on one of her day trips last week.
Wendy spends the summer based in Caunes and organises very special wine tasting tours in the whole Languedoc Roussillon area. In fact, if you want to go somewhere else….she’ll design a tour for you. Her expertise is amazing and her enthusiasm is infectious. I had a great day. This isn't an advert honestly.
We began in Caunes, and travelled towards Perpignan. There were 3 of us on the trip, along with Wendy, and her commentary as we drove past vineyards of the Minervois and Corbierres was just like a chat among friends. However, with great subtlety, almost incidentally, she told us about the terroirs and the political and economic ( and religious) influences that had affected the growing of vines and the production of wine in the area.
Our first stop was at what Wendy called a “ garigista wine maker” in Maury. Corin and Jayne Fairchild run a small operation, or at least that is what it looked like from the garage door entrance to the winery. Hearing about their numerous vineyards however made us realise it was not just a little back garden operation.
Corin shared his passion for making beautiful wine and showed us the various stages of wine making, enthralling us with tales of hailstorms, local jealousies amongst wine makers, the outrageous costs of barrels, and whether or not corks, plastic corks or screw tops were best. ( Corks good for wine that needs to mature, screw tops good for wine that needs to be drunk now…..and plastic corks ….no good , ever, for anything, especially the planet ). There were also some interesting technical terms used such as not “filtering the arse” out of the wine, meaning that some microscopic bits if skin can be found in bottles….. and this is fine.
Jayne had prepared lunch for us, and we sat with Corin and Jayne, overlooking a spectacular hillside, with terracing dating from Roman times. We ate with Corin and Jayne, while they answered all our questions about their experience as wine makers. Their frustration at some large scale English buyers ( mainly supermarkets) was evident. The buyers don’t want to taste the wine, just buy the cheapest they can, and the fact that the labour intensive process, the cost of barrels etc means that better wine costs more to make, is of no interest to them. The UK tax on wine and the transportation costs means that Corin and Jaynes’s wine is never going to be able to sell in Tescos for £3.99. Their basic wine , called le Fetard ( the merrymaker), sells for about 6 euros a bottle, meaning that once the extras are added on, and Tesco’s profit margin, it becomes an expensive wine for Brits to buy, and they wont when there is so much cheap stuff available. Wendy reckoned that some of the wine we buy in English supermarkets, means that about 10p is actually on the wine…the rest is tax, transportation cost, bottle and label costs and supermarket profit margin. Corin and Jayne can’t sell their wine for 10p !!!!!!
The rest of the day with Wendy was spent travelling through some spectacular country side. We visited the Cathar castle at Peyrepertuse, which was stunning……but that is another story.