Winemaking in France started 2600 years ago. In the 19th century, some fungal disease wiped out the vineyards. So the French used some hybrid variety from the USA after the vineyards were destroyed. Wine making again started with full vigour. Dr. Paramita takes us on a tour of French vineyards and wineries, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
French wine is the most sort after; the most coveted…the connoisseur’s choice. Yes, we went to a very French wine tasting tour in Aix-en –Provence, France. It was a cold and sunny Monday morning, in May 2016. We gathered at the Tourism Centre at the City Centre at about 8.45am. Our guide Stephan picked us up and started his minibus at about 9am. This wine tour was the wine tour of Cote’s de Provence Sainte-Victoire. Such wine tours only take place from April to October.
Our English speaking French sommelier (guide) took us to the foot of the Saint –Victoire Mountain to unravel the secrets of the vineyards. Victoire Mountain’s pristine beauty charmed us. It was very cold as the Northern cold winds from the Alps were blowing over the vineyard. We only had very light jackets with us so imagine our plight. Different grape varieties for different wines were growing in patches, varieties like Polte, Grenache, Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and many more. There were rose bushes separating a few patches. Roses are good indicators of any type of diseases of plants. If the roses wilt the growers immediately come to know the plant disease will spread to the grape vines. Some lavender plants were also there to beautify the vineyard. Cypress trees lined the vineyard to stop strong winds. It was beauty beyond compare…it was like a fairyland.
Can you believe it! Wine making in France started 2600 years ago. In the 19th century some fungal disease wiped out the vineyards. So the French used some hybrid variety from USA after the vineyards were destroyed. Wine making again started with full vigour.
We could see just the initiation of grapes in the plants. They looked like bunches of green globules. Our guide took us in to show us the wine making process. There were huge stainless steel containers for the processing of grapes for making wine. The red grapes are crushed along with their skin which gives the red colour. For the rose’ wine few skins are taken for the pink colour. White wine is procured from white grapes and is pressed without their skin. Full bodied elegant wines are aged in oak barrels.
Two huge guard dogs were locked up just outside. They snarled and growled at us. Whereas, a cat was circling around our legs and purring away. It was the pet of the lady at the counter.
We then went to the wine parlour where the owner of the vineyard and winery invited us to taste five different kinds of wine—two rose’, one white and two red. Rose’ wine is always my favourite. In one corner of the parlour there were some bottled delicacies of goose liver. The other side had gorgeous carafes (decanters) on sale.
Then we went to the second winery, the Mas De Cadenet. This is a family owned winery since 1813. Mas de Cadenet means “estate where Junipers grow”. The estate covers an area of 110 acres in Cotes de Provence-Sainte Victoire. It is on a south facing plateau at an altitude of 250 m. The average age of vines is 35 years and the oldest vines are 75 years old. The older the vines the flavour of the wines is better but the older vines have lesser yield. This estate belongs to the Negrel family. The seventh generation of the Negrels are looking after the task of wine making now.
We again had a wine tasting session of four wines. We were seated on very old wooden stools and at a table, which was an antique piece. The place was decorated with different kinds of wine bottles. We then bought a wine of the birth year of our daughter. The extremely handsome present wine lord, Mathiew Negrel searched in his stock and brought out a dusty bottle of 2001. He packed the bottle in bubble wrap for us to carry home. We have treasured this bottle of wine for our daughter’s eighteen years birthday.
We came back to our hotel at the end of the day with lovely memories and the rich taste of wines lingering on our tongues.
©Dr. Paramita Mukherjee Mullick
Photos by the author
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Dr. Paramita is a scientist with a doctorate in Genetic Toxicology, an educationist by profession, associated with NABET, GoI organisation, helping in the quality management of schools all over India. An author and poet by passion, she has published four books. She has had numerous book events around the world. Presently a series of competitions of her poems are being held in some schools in Mumbai, where she lives with her husband and daughter.