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A taste of the sweet life

Hand-Picking Old Vineyard Carignan in Languedoc



In the Minervois, within the region of the Languedoc-Roussillon, old vineyards get hand-harvested.  As modern day tools and machines have taken over most of the harvesting these days in the newer vineyards, the older vines are still hand-harvested as they were planted much closer together and new tractors literally won't fit between them.


So, as a group of friends and family we get together and help out, a fun day lasting from morning to later afternoon !


A few weeks ago, on a beautiful and sunny morning, 8am to be exact, we all met up at the vineyard's family home.  We were offered breakfast of dry sausages, baguettes, wine, blood sausage, juice and coffee amoung other delicious morsels to fuel our day.hand-harvest-crew


We went off to the vineyard, were given buckets and clippers, a few instructions and off we went down the rows snip...snip...snip...



 ...Into buckets, then into bigger buckets on the backs of a few grape "mules" the bunches went. Eventually we picked the vines clean being left only with sticky, purple hands...hand-harvest-mule-dump








...Apertif followed the final dump, then a lunch fit for hungry harvesters ensued and we imbibed in last year's harvest to celebrate. Thanks to our hosts for a great day !



Minervois Machine Harvest of Carignan


The grape harvest is almost complete here in the Minervois wine region of the Languedoc-Roussillon and I got to witness, and even help with this vineyard's machine harvest. This method tends to be the most common for most of the varietals in the region, especially for the newer vines, as they are spaced machine distance apart when planted.azille-church-carignan-vineyards-harvestingThese Carignan grape vines near the bridge on the way out of Azille are being harvest this way, in a 1/2 hectare field!









The expert vignerons (Parra et al) tell me that it takes about 2 hours a hectare to remove all the grapes with this giant shaking machine. 2 large snake-like metal hands moving rapidly together while gliding down the vines, knocking the grapes into bins hanging from either side.harvest-machine-sorting-carignanmachine-harvest-dump-bin








Then the bins are dumped into the awaiting tractor trailer to be wisked off to the local cooperative and turned into the lovely glass of wine we enjoy!















And here I am taking my turn at driving, 6 rows at a time before dumping the bins; being careful not to cause the green alarm lights to scream brightly at me...but no worries if they do, as I need only to tweek the stearing wheel towards the glowing green to straighten it up and continue down the lane!





Next: hand harvesting old vineyard Carignan.

Minervois Harvest Begins with Muscat


table-grapes-colorsMuscat grapes are being harvested by machine in the Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon region as I write.

Pressing, by hand, is a favorite method for the local wine-artist as he prefers to use his muscat grapes in a dry version of the tradtionally sweet, apertif bottles.










 The fresh, very sweet grape juice is pressed into large fiberglass barrels, then the temperature is dropped to slow down the fermentation process to create a mono-cepage white wine that is smooth & dry. Tasting will begin in the next few months - a la tiens!

muscat-juice-to-temperature muscat-juice-fermenting







La Dolce Vita Cuvee, an original Minervois wine



An original cuvee, made by Domaine La Parra in collaboration with La Dolce Vita.  This new wine is a mono-cepage made with pure, local Mourvedre grapes in a late harvest style producing a semi-sweet red wine.

After several conversation with Sonia & Celian Parra last year about options to create a cuvee just for me, La Dolce Vita, we came up with a sweet red wine - coming from ideas about something original and not often found in the Minervois or the Languedoc-Roussillon.  However, I had tasted a sweet red many (many) years ago with a chocolate dessert, and I never forgot that tasting moment, so it was !




A very light red, I decided to chill a bottle to see how it would taste at the level of a summer wine to refresh the palate . . . the results were a success, a nice chilled glass is the perfect wine for a light salad with fruit for lunch, or have a glass with some salty olives during the evening sunset.




Cuvee "La Dolce Vita" is also a great compliment to a very aged, strong cheese.  Also, a glass with fruit and a salty cheese goes down quite nicely.


Don't forget to have a sip, or two, with your homemade La Dolce Vita ice cream as well, especially the chocolate sorbet...

Currently the cuvee is only available here at La Dolce Vita, so come by for a taste and a bottle for your next adventure...a bientot !

Chateau Guery's Minervois Sauvignon


Continuing on with our series on local Minervois wines in Azille, I'd like to introduce to you...Chateau Guery and the family behind the wine and her vineyards.

These vines and methods of vinification have been passed down from father to son for generations and is now in the hands of Rene-Henry and his wife Florence, with Mom & Dad still in the background guiding the process.


The Guery family produces & blends white, rose and red wines using 15 separate varietals like old carignan, viognier, petit verdot, grenache and mourvedre to name a few.  The vines are grown in different soils giving each grape its own properties and flavors from clay, marble and sandstone bases in the hot sun of the South of France.


One of the Minervois white wines that come from Guery's cellars is a mono-cepage Sauvigon Blanc.  Likened to a New Zealand style sauvignon this white is high in acidity with fantastic citrus notes, being heavy on the grapefruit tang.  Well-chilled you'd be pleased to have a glass as an aperitif, but with oysters on the half shell you wouldn't even need the lemon squeeze as this wine does it for you!  This "Serre de Guery - Sagesse" is a great alternative to the well-known Picpoul and well worth a sip...or two.


Tasting courtesy of Matthew Saunders at the "Taste of Languedoc" in Azille - thanks Matt!