We live in the heart of Languedoc in Southern France. Our village is called Montblanc. This is slightly confusing as, although the village is on a hill it certainly is not mountain and must not be confused with the white snow capped towering peak of Mont Blanc in the Alps which is about 5 hours drive away. Another slight confusion is the brand of pens, watches and luxury items named Montblanc – it means I could not register the Internet site, although I have secured the name for some places like Twitter.
Montblanc is surrounded by vineyards, in fact we are in the center of the largest area of vineyards in France, some say the largest area of vines in the world. Good wine needs sun, soils and water and Languedoc is an oenological haven. But before the vineyards expanded in the 19th century, sheep farming was dominant, hundreds of thousands of sheep moved from the coastal plains of Languedoc up to the higher grass of the plateaux every year. But you can’t enjoy a good glass of wool, so I prefer the vineyards.
Thanks to a Mr Napoleon, French farming is still an small family operation, thousands of small units, most are less than 75 acres and this is usually in a lot of small parcels of land. So not only are we surrounded by thousands of acres of vineyards, we have hundreds of local wine producers supplying and making wine. Some are good and some are not so good and some are superb. With each producer making several different wines each year, the choice is wondrous.
Right in the middle of our village, by the crossroads just up from the cafe is Domaine Les Prunelles – this is about 200 yards from our house Villa Roquette – they offer a good selection of wines costing from under 2 euro a litre to a top price of 11 euro a bottle.
The vingneronne (a person who cultivates the vines and who also makes this into their own wines) also organises a series of walks, suppers and jazz evenings at their classic wine domain – this year they have ten of these special animations and on Friday morning I went for a stroll (a balade) into the countryside with a group of 20 other local people.
There was a 15 euro subscription which included two refreshment stops with unlimited wine, fresh ham, cold meats, cheese, foie gras, tapinade and on our return a full lunch with more unlimited wine, local sausage etc etc and more wine. At each rest, sitting under olive trees with the Mediterranean on one side and the mountains of central France on the other, we were entertained by a conteuse – Virginie Lagarde is a professional storyteller, we heard six folk tales of mystery, magic and mayhem told with grace and charm.
All through July and August the Domain des Prunelles is offering their Balades Vigneronnes and Soiree a Themes.