Let me tell you first: I am totally overwhelmed by the abundance of wine in South of France and now understand, because I have seen it for myself, why France is the biggest wine producing nation on the globe. I am currently in South of France, in the wine growing region of Languedoc, and wherever I look there are grapes. You cannot not see grapes, you know what I mean?
Three reasons for visiting the Chateau
When I arrive at the airport of Montpellier and miss the bus shuttle into the city I grab some leaflets from the tourist information and, immediately, immerse myself into the world of wine. I actually suffer from an immediate shortness of breath by the sight of all the wine estates in the leaflets. I only have a couple of days in South of France before heading to work on the vineyard! I will never get to see even a tiny percentage of all the caves! What shall I do? I can’t stay longer! Or can I? It takes me a while to come back to normal breath, to remind myself that I am on holidays and that I shouldn’t stress about the abundance of possibilities but rather take responsible action and try to make a decicion. So I do. I choose to visit Chateau de Flaugergues for three reasons. a) I have never been to a Chateau, b) it is in the city of Montpellier, c) they mention free wine tastings on their website. I admit not the most wine connaisseur type of reasons but good enough for me. And looking back at my time at the Chateau, I must say: It was well worth it. Read on to find out why!
More than 300 hundred years of wine growing history
The Chateau de Flaugergues works 40ha of vineyards and makes seven wines. Three reds, one rosé and two whites. It has been in the wine business for over three hundred and fifty years, to be precise since 1696, and has been owned by the same family since then. Today, Chateau de Flaugergues exports its wines to seventeen countries, with USA, UK and China being the top three importing countries. At the premises you can visit the Chateau but also a park and a botanical garden. People here are proud of their heritage and history and see it as their duty to preserve this history and also make it known and accessible to the public. Monsieur de Colbert, the owner of the Chateau, is a direct descendant of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who was the finance minister under King Louis XIV. When I later tell this fact to my host in Montpellier, who is a teacher of history at a local school, her eyes get bigger and she screams: „Incroyable! I have to go there myself!“
Sharing is caring
After I get my ticket from the lovely Natalia, the intern who helps out during sommer months, I meet Monsieur de Colbert who takes some time for a chat with me. Incroyable! He doesn’t beat around the bush but comes straight to the point: „What do you think is my aim of making wine?“ I don’t know and think to myself that that’s quite a good question that I should ask more often. I say something diplomatic like: „Oh well, everyone has got a different idea why…“ He continues in English with a heavy French accent after realizing that my answer is really no answer. „To share pleasure, of course! To make a good product that people can share! I make it with my whole heart. You know, my whole heart! The best things in life is to share things!“ He definitely has a point.
After our brief encounter, I visit the house, the gardens, the olive trees, the botanical garden. I search and find some vines. I see people working in the gardens, later I learn that one of them was Madame de Colbert, Henri’s wife, digging in the ground asking me if I had a bonne promenade (i.e. nice walk).
I am overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone and the work and commitment that is put in to preserve this place so that as many people can enjoy it.
Monsieur’s de Colberts words about sharing the wine with others spring to my mind and I think I understand the philosophy of this place: beautiful things are there to be shared with others. They increase in value if shared and the act of sharing gives pleasure to the one who shares.
The wines of Chateau de Flaugergues
When I am finished with my tour, Natalia is waiting for me in the cave and offers me a wine tasting of the wines of the Chateau. Whenever I hear the word wine tasting the word „no“ suddenly disappears from my vocabularly. I wonder if I am a linguistic phenomena that should be investigated.
We start with the whites.
Cuvée Foliae 2014, grape varieties: Muscat sec and Viognier. An aromatic wine that likes to be drunk when very young. Close to the nose it exhibits aromas of peach, apricot but most of all grapefruit. The wines are grown close to the Chateau on soils that are very rocky. The blue bottle is a hommage to the blue found on many apliances of the chateau, like window blinds, flower pots, gates etc.
We continue with the Cuvée Sommliere Blanc. Grape varieties: Rolle, Grenache blanc,
Marsane, Roussane and Viognier. We taste herbs, above all Rosemary. I feel like I have the meditterean sea in my mouth. I taste salt.
Next on our agenda is the rosé, grape varieties: Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Natalia asks me if I know how rosé wine is produced. We both joke a little about mixing red and white wine (haha) and then she reveals that the wine maker, Monsier Pierre de Colbert, son of Henri de Colbert whom you’ve already met, leaves the red grapes for exactly seven hours and seven minutes to soak in the flavours of the grape skins and stems before pressing out the juice. The colour of this rosè is wonderful. It really is rosé. Flavours of cherries, herbs and licorice find their way up my nose. Not a great fan of rosé myself, I must admit, I could get used to this one. And here again: I taste salt!
We finish the tasting with two same wines, but from different vintage years. The cuvée Sommeliere rouge from 2014 and 2011, grape varieties: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. What a difference. The 2011 tastes rounder and has got an abundance of aromas, most of all cassise. We both love the wine and I am happy I can take a bottle home with me. I am surprised that a red wine turns out to be my favourite. It must be the all the sun that clearly does the wine loads of good in terms of aromatic development!
I would like to end this post by mentioning what, despite the great Chateau, the lovely wines and the commitment of its owners, impressed me most that day. It was Natalia, the intern who sells tickets, gives tours of the Chateau and accompanies the wine tastings. She has a great passion for wine, which you can suddenly feel when talking to her and this passion is infectious. She also possesses great knowledge about wine and the estate. On a personal note, I would like to thank Natalia very much for this great experience!
I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences at the Chateau de Flaugergues. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to chat about wine from South of France. Also, if you have any recommendation for me, I would be glad to hear from you. A bientot!