Tag Archives: friends

a Naked tasting… time for some wine

24 Aug
cadavres on the table

'cadavres' (what Benji calls empties) on the table

Thought you were going to see a cheeky image of naughty bits??

Sorry, no, it’s Summer and this is often what our table looks like the morning after…

Glasses are cleared but the bottles are waiting to be packed and emptied at the village recycling bin (and how the old mesdames and messieurs of the village, seated on their bench, must love counting how many wines that Aussie girl manages to consume).

one of my favourite postcards!

...well it's not exactly the 'dames du village', but one of my favourite postcards. Can't bring myself to asking the real local ladies if I can take their photo!

It’s now past the middle of August and I can’t believe how quickly Lilas’ school holidays have passed, how many interesting people have stayed or called by,  and how much wine and food we’ve consumed.  It seems like a non-stop degustation here sometimes, with the Beroccas coming out first thing in the morning, but things will certainly slow down now that ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time) are approaching and Benji prepares the cellars for receiving grapes.  Soon he’ll be working a seven-day week and mostly absent from our daily timetable.  It’s an intense time until all grapes have been picked and are safe in the tanks or going through the press, so it’s good to make the most of it with family and friends time in this heat.

The bottles photographed above are the empties from an evening with some of the ‘Naked’ crew.  Joe from Naked and is family came to visit, one warm and windy night and an informal tasting turned into a bottle fest (with Lilas and the kids meanwhile transforming the living room into a Playmobil playground) with everyone trying the whites and reds from Benji’s range together with local cheeses, bread and mountain lamb (big merci to our friends Vincent and Isabelle who were staying that week and gave us a huge help in the kitchen – the bbq’d lamb was a treat!).   It’s always great to meet new people around a table of wine, glass in hand and every Naked tasting we’ve had has been full of laughs with interesting people from all parts.

a Naked tasting at home

a Naked tasting at home. Thanks Joe, Anna et al!

Benji's labels for Naked

The prototypes for Benji's Naked Wines range - a collboration between Vincent and Nick

You’re probably wondering what on earth Naked is.  It’s a company in the UK called Naked Wines and Benji makes and sells wine with them.  It’s been just over a year since the collaboration started and we’ve met so many great people – customers and other winemakers – and had lots of fun tasting the range over dinners, lunches and informal evenings like this one.  I know it sounds like a plug – and it is!  But seriuosly, all puns aside, it is an energetic company run by young people with enthusiasm and a love for wine, and fuelled by a community of customers – people buying and tasting wine from anywhere in the world and then sharing their experiences online.  Benji’s range has done well and we’ve learnt a lot from the forums and the feedback people have offered.  Thanks to everyone, Rowan, Joe, Amy, Sam, Fran, Simon, Frankie, Kevin, everyone, for the ride so far!

fun and wine

A night with La Clape

13 May

It’s that time of year already…  everyone’s thinking of summer.  Trips to the beach, trips abroad, no school, hairy legs to shave, and umpteen outdoor bbq’s with friends, food and wine.

The lead-up to the harvest, after the big risk period for frost has passed (phew, it’s around now and looks like we’re ok), is a relatively easy-going time in the vines.  They’re growing with hopefully enough rain and a lot of sun, and have a few organic treatments here and there etc.  Sounds like an ideal summer!

But this is the time Benji begins to stress.

In his head he’s organising the entire lead-up to the harvest and beyond and no-one knows what the weather will do, and how the fruits will develop.  There is the cellar to organise, extra work to take on filling in for those taking summer breaks, and prevention of disease in the grapes.  Any rainfall during this hot time can be dire.

As I said, this stress is cyclical.  And sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally!!  Ever had an argument about the ‘correct’ way to boil an egg? (although we ARE in France…).

So getting away last Friday night to the beautiful ‘La Clape’ area was a perfect way to switch off for 24 hours.

running on the beachLa Clape (yes, fair share of commentary) is a lovely seaside wine region (15 00 hectares of vines within the Coteaux du Languedoc apellation) not far from Narbonne.  From the town you take a spectacular, windy drive through the rugged hills of Le Massif de la Clape and there’s always a huge gasp of pleasure and surprise when the Mediterranean greets you on the other side.  It’s been years since we did this, but it’s still as beautiful and ‘sauvage’ as ever.

We were headed for a gite not far from the beach in St Pierre La Mer, Chateau d’Angles (so lovely, thank you!) and arrived just in time to join our friends for the ‘aperos’.  Vanessa’s hot homemade pesto, cheese and tomato pastries were fantastic and went down beautifully with the local white.

Then it was down to business, the men got tending the bbq (sound familiar?) and us ladies fed the kids who’d been on the go ever since we arrived.

Yum!  There’s nothing quite like a fresh seafood platter.  We ate a blend of raw and bbq’d delights collected from the nearby ‘poissonnerie’.  I must admit the seafood platter was half the reason I’d been so keen to come!!  Absolutely delicious – you can’t beat the mix of garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, aioli, and burning wood with clams, ‘bulots’ (whelks), prawns, ‘couteaux’ (razor clams) – I could eat like this everyday.

local delights for dinner

Top it off with a crisp, frsh white or rose and it’s heaven!  We followed the local white with a Muscat Sec and then a bottle of Benji’s delicious Viognier.  I wasn’t sure about the mouth of the muscat at first.  Dry muscat is a strange one sometimes, the nose is so inviting and floral and sweet and then the mouth seems dry and short.  But this opened up beautifully.  Benji’s white, as always was floral, crisp and fresh.  These whites were great mates for the seafood.

Dinner ended being a casual, straight off the barbie affair.  No set seating, just constant ‘aller-retours’ with everyone taking turns bringing new dishes to the table.   I like this way of eating at the beach.  No fuss, just enjoying each other’s company and each new wonderful flavour.  As the light dimmed we got out the camper lanterns and popped the kids to bed.  Ready for another white!

And a quick plug!… we had an abundance of ininvited mosquitos joining us and the good old Aussie products of Rid and Aerogard came out in force.  Must say that the Frenchies were quite impressed with how well the stuff worked!

Like happy campers (and a happy winemaker), we all headed for bed in the fresh of the night.

A day of collecting to follow…

shells from La Clape

lunch in the sun

22 Feb

nibbles are served

Hooray, the sun’s out!

It’s only February but as the blossom arrives, the mimosa is in full bloom and the sun creeps back into view, it’s time to enjoy some cheeky aperitifs outside with friends!

Sunday was one of those days… we gathered at our friends’ winery, Chateau de Gourgazaud, each of us bringing a plate or two, a bottle or two and enjoyed the afternoon outside sharing each other’s company and produce!  After gobbling down their required ‘feed’, the kids ran out of view, ducking back only for dessert, while we adults slowly peeled off layers of jackets and scarves and toasted the Spring days ahead and many more good vintages the come!

As the lovely ladies were nattering and preparing platters in the kitchen (I even donned my apron) and the men already outside hovering, glasses in hand around the bbq (mmn, some things never change), we enjoyed a fresh and vibrant Gourgazaud Chardonnay-Viognier 2009  with our nibbles.  Great way to start the meal…  The zesty white was a great match for the crispy courgette wedges dipped in garlic mayo (see recipe below) and the mouth-watering foie gras cooked mi-cuit’ style (it’s a semi-cooked pate, made from specially-fattened livers of geese.  Don’t ask…).

Out came B’s Chateau Maris Old Vine Syrah 2008.  Nothing like a smooth, full and fruity La Liviniere red with bbq’d meats!  It’s not an old bottle, but already has the qualities of a delicious drop that’s all too-easily drunk!  Me: ‘How would you describe this red then?’ B: ‘Bloody amazing!’.   This one was quickly guzzled down as a magnum of Gourgazaud’s Reserve 1996 arrived.  Round and lovely to get the chance to taste a wine with quite a few more years behind it.  It’s not often that we can leave them alone for that long, so much appreciated guys!

We’re looking forward to the next gathering!…

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